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Alaska's natural splendors are overwhelming. From the snow-covered peak of Mount McKinley to the volcanic islands of the Aleutian chain, from the expansive treeless tundra of the North Slope to the tall spruce and deep fjords of Southeast, the nature of Alaska is wild, vast, and magnificent. Humans are diminutive by comparison, and their architecture equally so.

Isolated constructions of indigenous materials in the wilderness, wood-frame bungalows in orderly small towns, or glass and metal high-rises in the cities, the buildings portray attempts to harmonize with, ignore, or tame this remote northern land. As illustrations of ways of living, the buildings reveal personal attitudes and cultural precepts, reflecting the variety of people who built them.

The history of Alaska's architecture involves three major cultural groups—Natives, Russians, and Americans. Each of these groups includes different factions, yet a basic imperative unites each of them. The Natives constructed dwellings that were most responsive to the climate, and entirely of indigenous materials. The Russians brought their horizontal log, blocklike dwellings to America; that building form was suitable for much of the area they inhabited. The Americans were possessed by the idea of the frontier even as they pretended to ignore it by building houses in forms familiar back home.

Since the earliest structures that can be documented in Alaska were built by its Native population, this introduction begins with a discussion of Eskimo, Aleut, Athapaskan Indian, and Northwest Coast Indian traditional architecture, in turn, bringing the story up to the present by discussing the evolution and disappearance of traditional dwellings in the years since contact with whites. Next, Russian settlement and architecture are described. In addition to a handful of buildings that survive from Russian times, Russian Orthodox churches continue to be built in traditional forms, and an examination of their architecture brings the Russian period to the present. The last section, on the American period, begins by describing general patterns of American building and then treats the history and architecture chronologically.

Native Alaskan Architecture

Occupying Alaska for thousands of years before Russians and Americans arrived, the Natives 1constructed dwellings as fascinating for their similarities and differences as for their complexity. Although almost none of these structures survives, they are an important aspect of the culture of each of the Native groups. Eskimos, Aleuts, Athapaskan Indians, and Northwest Coast Indians each had a readily identifiable architecture. After the arrival of whites in Alaska, Natives were subject to many influences, which their architecture reflected: technological innovations, such as glass windows; spiritual instruction, which resulted in the construction of Russian Orthodox churches; moral inculcation by American missionaries, who insisted that Natives abandon communal habitations for single-family dwellings; and general shifts in style and fashion, which heightened the popularity of new-style dwellings. Yet there are many features of traditional dwellings that render this architecture important in the context of Alaskan history, among them the use of indigenous construction materials, their responsiveness to the climate, and their accommodation of Native culture and society.

The Eskimos, who inhabited the north and west coasts of Alaska and several hundred miles inland, constructed semi-subterranean dwellings out of sod, driftwood, and whalebone—not snow—and added long entrance tunnels to trap cold air. The Aleuts, occupying the volcanic Aleutian Chain, built large semi-subterranean dwellings that were entered through a hole in the roof. The Athapaskan Indians, living the highly mobile life of hunters and fishermen in the Interior, built moss- or bark-covered structures or portable willow-frame, skin-covered tents, while the Northwest Coast groups, fishermen in the resource-rich Southeast, constructed highly sophisticated plank dwellings ornamented with carvings and paintings. These identifiable forms varied, however, influenced by different climates, available materials, and neighboring groups. The following discussion of Native architecture is much simplified; determinants of building form, such as patterns of subsistence and cultural traditions, are only alluded to here. Although presented here as static, pre-contact architecture changed over time, just as it did after contact with whites.

The first people arrived in Alaska some time before 10,000 B.P. 2Migrating from Siberia either on sea ice in winter or by boat, these people spread throughout North America. In Alaska, they developed, slowly, into four major groups: Eskimos, Aleuts, Athapaskan Indians, and Northwest Coast Indians. Within these groups there are further divisions, usually determined by language.


The igloo, a domical structure made of snow blocks and strongly identified with the Eskimo, does not exist in Alaska and never has, except as a temporary, emergency structure. Central Eskimos, residing in Canada, lay claim to this snow structure. Igloois, however, a general Eskimo term for house, and of these Alaskan Eskimos have a wide variety. The basic form is a semisubterranean structure, framed with driftwood or whalebones and covered with sod, with a tunnel entrance.

Culturally, Eskimos are usually categorized by their language, which falls into two branches: Inupiaq and Yupik. Inupiaq is spoken by North Alaskan Eskimos, and Yupik by three groups south of Norton Sound: Bering Sea, Siberian (of which Saint Lawrence Islanders are the only Alaskan example), and Pacific Eskimos. 3The latter are closely aligned with the Aleut culture and will be considered in the next section.

Climatically, the Eskimos are strongly identified with the Arctic, a region narrowly defined as north of the Arctic Circle. A more appropriate identification would be with the region beyond the tree line. This provides a visual demarcation that coincides with most—but not all—of the area that the Eskimos inhabit. Although treeless, the area is served by rivers originating in timbered regions, which bring driftwood with them. The climate is cold, with very cold winters and cool summers. Along the Arctic coast, nearly three months of full daylight in the summer are complemented by nearly three months of full darkness in the winter. The land is mostly a coastal plain composed of tundra, moisture-retaining soils in which mosses, lichens, and grasses grow. Frozen nine to ten months of the year in the north, the tundra turns to bog in the summer; the underlying permafrost permits no drainage. The tundra in summer is nearly impassable, but in winter, with the help of sleds and snowshoes, it is more easily traversed. The Eskimos domesticated the indigenous malamute dog for assistance in pulling sleds.

For the most part, Eskimos settled on the coast, on rivers, and in the foothills on the north slope of the Brooks Range. They sought high ground, which would give them protection from flooding and ice and also provide an opportunity to spot game and invaders. Villages were usually arranged informally, either clustered around the men's house or in family groupings.

Most of the Eskimos had a central base and traveled seasonally searching for game and fish. This pattern ranged from caribou hunters of inland North Alaska, who moved several times a year, to whalers on the North Alaskan coast, who had large, permanent villages. Bering Sea hunters and fishermen were more nomadic than the whalers but less so than the caribou hunters. Although difficult to determine, the size of the base villages reflected the permanence: some villages of the North Alaskan coastal Eskimos might have had five hundred occupants, while those of the caribou hunters were usually less than one hundred. 4

Coastal North Alaskan Eskimos built semisubterranean dwellings with long entrance passages. Walls were constructed of vertical driftwood planks or whalebones and covered with sod, mounded to conceal the shape of the framework; plank-covered floors were several feet below ground level. The gable roof had a ridgepole; the front of the roof had an opening covered with seal gut to provide light. The dwelling, which measured about 10 feet by 14 feet on the interior, was entered through the long tunnel, 4 or 4 1/2 feet high, which served as a cold trap. On either side of the underground tunnel were separate areas for cooking and storage. The tunnel surfaced in the house, where a wide bench along the rear wall provided space for sleeping or sitting. The interior was heated with a soapstone or pottery lamp that burned seal oil; body heat also contributed a significant amount of warmth. 5In fact, the dwellings were so warm that the inhabitants usually removed most of their clothes while inside. This basic structure could vary in a number of ways—size, existence of a fireplace, roof framing, depth of the tunnel, and bench position.

Plan and section of an Eskimo dwelling, as found by John Murdoch at Point Barrow in 1887–1888. The tunnel entrance traps cold air, and sod covers the dwelling, insulating it.

For most Alaskan Eskimos, the household was the basic economic unit. Composed of an extended family of several generations or of two related families, it ranged in size from eight to twelve people among the North Alaskans to slightly more among the Bering Sea Eskimos. Accordingly, Bering Sea Eskimo dwellings were larger, measuring about 15 feet square. Primarily because of the availability of fuel for heat and the less extreme temperatures as well as household size, dwellings toward the south tended to be larger. 6

The dwellings of the North Alaskan Eskimos around Kotzebue Sound had fireplaces, as did most dwellings to the south; the bleak environment of the north coast provided little firewood and precluded this luxury. A stone-lined fireplace occupied the center of the living area and was vented through a hole in the roof. In 1866, Frederick Whymper, an artist with the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, visited a village on the lower Yukon, and noted:

In summer, the dwellings resemble grassy mounds. Whalebones lie in the foreground and ships sit on the water beyond in this photograph taken at Barrow in 1923.

The fire was built on the floor in the centre of the chamber, and when it burned low the embers and sticks were always thrown out of the smoke-hole in the roof by the natives inside, and it was then covered with a skin. This process effectually shut in all the warmth, but with it a good deal of smoke and carbonic acid gas. The entrance-hole was also usually covered with a deer-skin, and the mixture of close smells inside the house, arising from more or less stale fish, meat, old skin clothes, young dogs, dirt, and smoke, was very sickening. The dogs scrambling and fighting on the roof above, sometimes tumbled through the smoke-hole on the fire below, upsetting all the cooking arrangements, and adding a new smell to those above mentioned—that of singed hair! It need not be said that they retreated with great alacrity, yelping and snarling as they went. 7

In contrast to the gable roofs of the North Alaskan Eskimos, Eskimos in the Kotzebue Sound area placed four posts near the center of the structure to support stringers. They set four corner posts to support additional stringers and laid planks from one to the other. 8The Bering Sea Eskimos also used this roof design, as well as one that was cribbed.

The location of benches was affected by tunnels and fireplaces. Benches stood several feet above the floor if the tunnels were not deep, or if there were no fireplace. Bering Sea Eskimo houses had low benches on the side walls and sometimes on the rear wall, a short shallow tunnel, and a fireplace. 9The dwellings of the Kotzebue Sound North Alaskan Eskimos had a plan distinctive among Alaskan Eskimos: the main living area adjoined one to three sleeping alcoves. 10

The interior of the dwelling pictured on p. 7, looking toward the entrance, which is a hole in the floor. Above it is a membrane-covered skylight.

Inland North Alaskan Eskimos, who subsisted on caribou, had less permanent settlements. Not only did they move from summer to winter quarters and back again, but the nature of their subsistence required a larger move every decade or so. As a result, they did not excavate their winter dwellings. They built dwellings with four center posts and short, flat-roofed entryways, 11and they used several different plans. Two families might share a dwelling, in which case there would be two apartments reached from a common tunnel, or separate tunnels leading to adjoining apartments. 12For temporary structures, inland North Alaskan Eskimos built large, dome-shaped tents, whereas the coastal North Alaskan Eskimos erected small, conical tents.

The most important structure in any Eskimo village was the kashim, or men's house. The presence of a kashim denoted a village, and larger villages had more than one. There, the men of the village congregated to make decisions, repair their boats, take baths, and, in some societies, to eat and sleep. They were also used for dances and ceremonies, and visitors were usually feasted and housed there. Frederick Whymper described some of the many uses:

In the village at Unalachleet, as in most others of the coast, there are buildings set apart for dances and gatherings of the people; at other times, indeed, they are used for occupations requiring space, as the manufacture of sledges or snow-shoes. These buildings may be regarded as the natives' town-hall; orations are made, festivals and feasts are held in them, and the passing stranger is sometimes accommodated in them, as in an Eastern caravansary. 13

Among the coastal North Alaskan Eskimos, the kashim was occupied by whaling crews during the whaling season. 14In the permanent villages of the Bering Sea Eskimos, men and boys lived in the kashim, being served their meals by the women, who lived in the family houses. In its construction, a kashim was similar to a family dwelling, only larger, ranging from 12 feet to 25 feet square.

Another structure found in most Eskimo villages was the storehouse. Along the northern coast, there were storage alcoves in the tunnel of the house, a meat cellar nearby, and a storage rack in back of the house. South of Norton Sound, however, the storehouses were often elevated wooden structures, known throughout Alaska today as caches. Four posts stuck in the ground elevated the 10-foot or 12-foot square structure about 5 feet; the flooring projected beyond the walls, providing an outdoor platform for storage of sleds and kayaks; the enclosed portion served as storage for food and perishables. More elaborate examples, constructed where wood was plentiful, were higher (6 feet to 8 feet tall), had vertical wood plank walls on front and rear, horizontal planks on the sides, and a gable roof. 15In addition, most villages had storage racks to elevate sleds and kayaks, keeping the rawhide covers and lashings out of reach of the dogs.

By 1898 on Saint Lawrence Island, Eskimos were building large, skin-covered, plank-walled dwellings unlike any others in Alaska.

Culturally and linguistically, the Natives of Saint Lawrence Island belong to the Siberian Eskimo group; their architecture reflects that heritage. For reasons not yet clear, their dwellings changed form drastically during the nineteenth century. Early in the century, Saint Lawrence Islanders lived in semisubterranean, sod-covered dwellings, often framed with whalebones, and reached through a passageway. By the twentieth century, these dwellings had been replaced by a distinctively Siberian, skin-covered structure of driftwood slabs stood on end and chinked to form a wall. The plan was an “oblong octagon,” 16and the roof had a ridgepole supported by two posts, four center posts (for larger structures), or no ridgepole at all (for smaller ones). The rafters were tied to the ridgepole or clustered together and covered with tightly stretched walrus hides, weighed down by stones, driftwood, and bones. The interior measured 7 feet to 8 feet wide by 10 feet to 18 feet long. 17

Eskimos on Little Diomede Island used available materials to build some of the few stone-covered dwellings in Alaska.

Photographed in 1913, the dwellings of the King Island Eskimos were supported by poles to accommodate the steep terrain.

The Natives of the Diomede Islands belong to the North Alaskan Eskimo grouping and to two countries; Big Diomede Island is today in Russia. Little Diomede Island is covered with boulders, which were used in the construction of the houses. The roof was framed by four corner posts supporting beams; the floor and walls were driftwood planks. The dwelling was insulated by a layer of sod, which was then covered with stones. Access to the dwelling was through an underground passage that was lined with stones and braced by timbers. 18

The Natives of King Island are also North Alaskan Eskimos with distinctive building forms. Their winter dwellings were covered with stones in a manner similar to those on Little Diomede Island, but their summer dwellings were built on poles, set on the steep cliffs of the island. Poles that were 10 feet to 20 feet long supported a platform, the rear of which rested on shorter poles or on the sharply sloping ground. On this platform was a walrus-skin tent. Generally square in shape, with a flat roof, the dwelling had two rooms, a storeroom measuring 16 feet by 10 feet in front of a living room measuring 7 feet by 8 feet, which was plank lined. An insulating layer of moss was placed between the plank interior and the walrus-skin exterior. 19


The barabara, a semisubterranean dwelling with entrance through the roof, is the creation of the Aleuts, who inhabit the Aleutian Chain. Severe depletion of their numbers, disruption of their society, and relocation of their villages by Russian traders in the eighteenth century make the Aleut pre-contact culture difficult to interpret. Some Pacific Eskimos also identify themselves as Aleut. Of the Pacific Eskimos, most is known about the Koniag, who inhabited the island of Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula, and the Chugach, of Prince William Sound.

The Aleutian Chain, Alaska Peninsula, and much of Kodiak Island are beyond the tree line, an extremely rugged, volcanic land, whereas the land abutting Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound is forested. The Aleuts and Pacific Eskimos tended to inhabit coastal lands, or occasionally sites on rivers. They derived most, if not all, of their subsistence from the water. Accordingly, they settled near good landings, such as gravel beaches. The Koniag had some of the largest settlements in the region, of up to five hundred people.

Reached through a hole in the roof, the Aleut barabara housed several families. This barabara was drawn in 1778 by John Webber, who was traveling with the British explorer Capt. James Cook.

Resembling a grassy mound from the exterior, the Aleuts' barabara was one of the largest dwellings among Alaska Natives, ranging from 70 feet to over 200 feet in length and over 30 feet wide. 20In an oblong or rectangular shape, the barabara had a rough post-and-beam construction, which was then covered with sod. The dwelling was excavated 3 feet or 4 feet, and access was through a hole in the roof, then down a notched pole serving as a ladder. The center of the barabara was a communal space, as several related families occupied the dwelling; along the sides, cubicles housed individual families. Stone seal oil lamps were used for heat and light. Fires for cooking were outside.

The Koniag constructed similar dwellings, but with a side entrance. Two to four rooms housed individual families, substituting for the cubicles. 21There was a fireplace in the common area, and sometimes in the smaller rooms as well. The Chugach constructed plank houses, similar to the Northwest Coast Indians, who were their neighbors to the east, but divided them as the Koniag did, with a central common room and private compartments. 22

Like other Eskimos, the Koniag built kashims, or larger ceremonial houses. The Aleuts used their large barabaras for ceremonial gatherings. Summer dwellings were makeshift structures. 23

Athapaskan Indians

Linguistically related to the Navajos and Apaches of the American Southwest, the Northern Athapaskans occupy much of the Interior Region of Alaska and western Canada. In Alaska today there are eleven linguistic groups. Only one of the Alaskan Athapaskan groups lived along the coast at the time of European contact—the Tanaina of Cook Inlet. The others were based inland, in a hilly and mountainous land of coniferous forests, laced with rivers and interspersed with wide-open tundra; it is also an area of extreme temperatures. Athapaskans subsisted on caribou and salmon. Highly mobile because of their hunter-gatherer nature, the Athapaskans built simple structures with forms often influenced by their neighbors. Among the Athapaskans, the more sedentary the group, the more complex its architecture.

The Han Indians, based along the upper Yukon, built a moss-covered dwelling for their permanent house, which they occupied during the salmon run in late summer and for much of the winter. About 25 feet square, the dwelling was excavated 1½ feet. Posts and beams supported a gable roof. The Han constructed walls of vertical split poles, 6 inches to 8 inches in diameter, and laid moss on the exterior of this wall, as well as on the roof. The interior contained a fireplace vented through smoke holes on either side of the ridgepole, brush for bedding, and willow mats. 24The Tanana of the upper Tanana River and the Ahtna of the Copper River, likewise fishermen, built similar dwellings, sometimes covering them with bark. 25

As a semipermanent or temporary shelter used for hunting in the winter, the Han Indians built an oblong hemispherical skin-covered dwelling, similar to the temporary dwelling of the inland North Alaskan Eskimo. Placed on ground where the snow had been scraped away, this dwelling was framed by spruce poles, bent toward the middle, strengthened by cross poles, and covered with caribou skins. An opening in the center of the roof emitted smoke, and there was an entrance through an opening in one end. These dwellings ranged in size from about 7 feet by 10 feet to 12 feet by 18 feet and housed two nuclear families. 26The Kutchin and the upper Tanana, primarily hunters of large game, built similar dwellings. 27

Neighboring Eskimo groups influenced the building forms of the Koyukon of the middle Yukon, the Ingalik of the lower Yukon and the middle Kuskokwim, and the Tanaina of Cook Inlet. In contrast to the Athapaskans, all three groups had relatively sedentary settlements, as the Koyukon and Ingalik fished and the Tanaina hunted sea mammals. Their dwellings were semisubterranean, excavated 3 feet to 4 feet, generally with entrance tunnels and fireplaces. 28

The Athapaskans built a variety of outbuildings. The Han, Tanana, Ahtna, and Ingalik all had platform caches, similar to those of the Bering Sea Eskimos. The Ingalik also built smokehouses, similar in construction to their summer dwellings, for preserving large quantities of salmon. These smokehouses were deliberately porous to allow the salmon to dry as much as to smoke it. The smoke gathered near the rafters, where the salmon was hung, and at ground level the smokehouse was almost habitable, yet smoky enough to deter mosquitoes. 29The Tanana had separate, domical sweathouses, constructed in much the same way as their skin- or bark-covered dwellings. 30

Northwest Coast Indians

The northernmost of the Northwest Coast peoples (which refers to the Northwest Coast of North America, not Alaska), the Tlingit lived in resource-rich Southeast Alaska, a heavily forested seacoast setting. The Southeast Region receives over 50 inches of precipitation annually (and in some places over 100 inches), the climate is temperate, the coastal waters remain open all winter, and there is relatively little snowfall. Five kinds of Pacific salmon spawn in the streams, providing the main subsistence. Other fish and sea mammals are abundant. A variety of fur-bearing and edible animals inhabit the woods. The Tlingit, who put up the stiffest resistance to Russian invaders, were also adept traders, valuing steel tools, Hudson's Bay blankets, and crafts of other Native groups. 31The ease of life, compared to the more extreme climates that faced other Native groups in Alaska, allowed the Tlingit to form a highly sophisticated society that developed a complex architecture in terms of construction and carved ornamentation.

Broad gable fronts of plank houses line the shore in the deserted Tlingit village of Cape Fox, photographed by Edward S. Curtis in 1899.

The importance of status to the Tlingit was reflected in their villages and buildings. Tlingit society—and each village—was divided into halves, the Ravens and the Wolves or Eagles. Within each half were clans; each of these was composed of several lineages or local divisions; and each of these was composed of several large communal households. Within the household, location in the rear of the house indicated high status, with status diminishing nearer the door. 32

Tlingit villages were oriented toward the water, composed of a single or double row of houses, clustered by clan. Villages ranged in size from a few houses to sixty; households contained twenty-five to fifty related people.

The Tlingit constructed plank houses without pegs or nails and with roof supports largely independent of walls. Stout construction was essential to a house's role as a fortification, for the Tlingit were frequently under threat of attack. They used spruce logs for the primary supporting posts, while they split the more easily worked hemlock into thinner planks for the walls. Red cedar, which had to be imported from the Queen Charlotte Islands, might be used as a finish material by a particularly wealthy household.

Some of the best-documented examples of the plank house were those constructed by the Chilkat Tlingit, who inhabited the area at the head of Lynn Canal. The Whale House viewed by George T. Emmons in 1885 was constructed by 1835, while a similar house, drawn in detail by Louis and Florence Shotridge, was not clearly identified. 33In both cases, the structure that supported the gable roof was almost entirely separate from the structure supporting the walls and was located within it. Four large vertical planks, set in the ground in a square about 40 feet on a side, supported two principal purlins—round logs about 2 feet in diameter. Resting on these, planks ran crosswise and supported smaller round logs, which were placed closer together and served as minor purlins. Again, these purlins supported beams, which supported the ridgepole. Rafters supported the roofing material, which consisted of planks and split shingles.

To form the walls, four heavy vertical planks were placed at corners to form a 50-foot square, and three more at the midpoints of the side and rear walls. The front wall in the gable end was composed of vertical planks, while the side and rear walls were horizontal planks. 34The ends of the horizontal planks were tenoned, fitting into grooves that ran the length of corner and midpoint planks. The sill plate along the front wall was likewise grooved to receive the tenon at the end of each vertical plank.

The only opening in the walls was the doorway, set in the front gable facade, which faced the water. The low doorway was set several steps above the ground, forcing visitors to enter singly, in a crouching position. Often there was a platform or porch across the front. The ridgepole was discontinuous, leaving room for a smoke hole, usually covered by an adjustable windscreen.

Inside, the house had two or sometimes three stepped levels, each 2 feet or 3 feet apart. The lowest, center level was excavated 3 feet or 4 feet and contained the fire pit; except for this space, all of the floors were planked. The upper and outer level was the sleeping level, partitioned into distinct areas. Located toward the front of the house, under the platform, was a steam bath, although alternatively this might be located in a separate structure. Toward the rear of the house, a screen ran between the two interior planks that supported the roof, designating the space of the chief and his immediate family.

The Tlingit split planks out of logs.

An axonometric view of a Tlingit plank house showing the framing system, in which interior posts support the principal purlins. Exterior vertical planks are grooved to receive the ends of horizontal planks.

Several parts of the house were heavily decorated with carved ornamentation in the Northwest Coast style, which featured creatures outlined and joined by form lines, covering the entire designed area. The Chilkat decorated the interiors of their houses, as seen in the Whale House at Klukwan, which Emmons called “the most widely known and elaborately ornamented house … in Alaska.” The screen at the rear of the house was carved in low relief and painted to represent the rain spirit. A great central figure with outstretched arms, through whose belly was the entrance to the chief's apartment, was flanked by crouching figures. The planks supporting the roof were carved in high relief, each post relating a hero story about the clan or lineage. 35

Ornamentation on the exterior of the house was not practiced much by the Chilkat but was more common among Tlingit groups farther south. The corner planks at the front of the house, which projected above the roofline, were often ornamented, and sometimes the entire front facade was decorated. 36Totem poles, freestanding posts carved to relate legends or family history or to commemorate someone, were rare among the Chilkat and northern groups but were found more frequently among the Tlingit to the south. Unlike the neighboring Haida, who integrated totem poles into their dwellings, the Tlingit poles were set in front of the house, to the side of the entrance.

In 1895 Winter and Pond photographed the Whale House in Klukwan described by George T. Emmons. Northern Tlingit groups such as the Chilkat did not decorate the exterior of their houses, nor did they erect totem poles.

The interior of the same house displays a wealth of ornamentation, not only carved on the screen at the back of the house but also woven in the Chilkat blankets spread out for the photographer.

Construction of a house was an important social event, the occasion of the naming of the chief of the new house while memorializing the dead of the old one. The house owner contracted with his opposite moiety to construct the building, whom he would then reward with a potlatch upon completion, distributing gifts in the knowledge that he would be repaid in the future, and thus solidifying social relationships. Beyond immediate social and status concerns, however, the house also reflected the cosmology of the Tlingit. The house symbolized the world, with the careful attention to status within the dwelling symbolizing the occupants' place in the world order. The square plan was akin to the planet, which was considered square; the floor represented the earth, the roof embodied the heavens, and at the center of the house, the fire pit symbolized the center of the universe. The animistic nature of Tlingit beliefs is reflected in the carved ornament, which was almost always of creatures. Entering the house, or the chief's quarters, through the belly of a carved animal symbolized rebirth.

The Chilkat house described above was the general form used by all Tlingit. 37Most houses other than those of the chiefs were smaller, measuring about 30 feet on a side. Outbuildings included a smokehouse, important in a fishing village, which was built in the same general form as the house. The smokehouses contained two or three fireplaces, with horizontal boards suspended above to spread the smoke throughout the structure; the fish were hung to dry, as much as to smoke. 38

The Tlingit moved to temporary fish camps in the summer. In contrast to the care they lavished on the permanent dwellings, here they built flimsy structures constructed of boards or bark, with gable roofs. 39

Closely related to Tlingit architecture is that of the Haida, another Northwest Coast Indian group. Located primarily in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, the Haida also occupied Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. There they built dwellings similar to the Tlingit, with gable roofs supported by interior posts, mostly independent of the wall structure. The Haida produced highly carved and painted ornamentation on their dwellings. The central totem pole in the front facade, the corner posts, and the ends of the purlins were carved and painted, although facades were rarely painted. Inside, the screen at the rear of the house and the planks that lined the interior excavation were also ornamented. 40

A third Northwest Coast Indian group found in Alaska is the Tsimshian. They built no traditional dwellings here; they immigrated en masse from British Columbia in 1887 and built the missionary-influenced town of Metlakatla.

Changing Architectural Forms

The near-total disappearance of traditional dwellings vividly illustrates the dramatic change that whites inflicted on Alaska. 41As the Russians and Americans seized political control of Alaska, their cultures prevailed. While the newcomers had differing motivations, which will be discussed in the later sections of this introduction, their impact on Native architecture will be briefly examined here.

Native culture underwent fundamental transformation after contact with whites. Subsistence patterns, settlement patterns, and house forms all changed. While this was not necessarily a progression—new house types had actually appeared before any shift in subsistence—it does cover three important areas of western influence.

Some subsistence patterns changed without white influence. The Bering Strait Eskimos witnessed the disappearance of caribou from the Seward Peninsula, which might be attributed to the introduction of firearms but might also be due to natural shifts in the range of the caribou population. 42Inland North Alaskan Eskimos, confronted with the problem of declining caribou herds, migrated to the coast, where they adopted different subsistence patterns, and later to permanent settlement in Anaktuvuk Pass, which is today the only community of these inland Eskimos. 43Nonetheless, the trading opportunities provided by whites had a profound effect on Native subsistence throughout Alaska. The market for furs and whale products effectively removed the Natives from a strictly subsistence economy.

The Kutchin Athapaskans illustrate this shift. The fur trade in the mid-nineteenth century resulted in the establishment of trap lines, altering the Kutchins' attitudes about the land. Whereas previously the Kutchin had been highly mobile, hunting and gathering without permanent settlements, the trap lines—a set path through land that was “owned” through continuous use—necessitated a more sedentary existence. Dog teams were introduced, enabling a trapper to reach a greater area from a base camp. Gradually, trading posts developed into villages, which became permanent, winter-long habitations when schools were established. No longer would a family spend the winter out on a trap line; instead a man made shorter trips to them without his family. Larger dog teams, and finally snowmobiles, have been used to cover greater distance in shorter trips. 44

The neighboring Han Indians, who had lived on salmon before the arrival of whites in the area, turned to hunting to provide meat and trapping to provide furs for the growing non-Native population. The Han entered the market economy and, after the 1897 Klondike gold rush to their territory, their diet shifted to one of store-bought food. 45

Today, rural Natives depend on both subsistence—food won from the natural environment—and cash. They obtain cash from seasonal wage labor, social security, and welfare, for steady, year-round jobs are rare in rural villages.

The plank houses in the Indian village of Sitka, photographed in 1882, show little evidence of architectural change.

By 1886, new clapboarded fronts with windows and doors ornament the traditional houses in Sitka. The smoke hole covered by a wind screen indicates that traditional living patterns continue inside.

By the 1890s, new two-story clapboarded houses had replaced the traditional dwellings in Sitka.

As the subsistence pattern changed, so did the settlement pattern. Trading posts and canneries acted as magnets in the nineteenth century, and villages developed around them. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, missions and schools likewise created villages. In fact, American missionaries often deliberately located missions away from Native villages to avoid intervillage rivalries and to force Natives to move and build anew. 46The search for year-round work and higher education has drawn increasing numbers of Natives to the cities so that nearly 20 percent live in Anchorage and Fairbanks today.

Other changes in settlement patterns were responses to natural disasters. The eruption of the Katmai volcano in 1912 eradicated some villages and forced relocation of survivors, as did the 1964 earthquake. 47On a smaller scale, the erosion of a riverbank necessitated moving a village, sometimes only several hundred yards. The village of Minto on the Tanana River was moved back from the bank several times until 1971, when the people moved to a new site 25 miles away. 48

The dwellings changed as well. The Aleuts put windows and doors into the walls of their barabaras in the early nineteenth century. 49They acquired Russian-type stoves for heating and cooking. As household size shrank—in part due to Russian oppression and disease—structures likewise were built smaller. A visitor to Unalaska in the late 1830s described the barabaras as being 14 feet by 21 feet with an entrance hall/storeroom and living quarters, housing one or two families, 50whereas previously they had been 30 feet by 70 feet, housing several families. With these changes, though, the barabara survived well into the twentieth century. 51

In the Southeast Region, the Tlingit seized upon American house forms. An 1882 photograph of the segregated Indian village of Sitka shows a village of plank houses, some with their original round openings. By 1886, the fronts of these buildings were clapboarded and had windows and doors. And just eight years later, most of these buildings had been replaced with American two-and-a-half-story buildings.

Like Sitka, the Chilkat Tlingit village of Yindastuki evolved by 1904 from plank houses to transitional dwellings to American framed houses. But until World War II, the dwellings were communally owned, were noticeably larger than American dwellings, and housed multiple families. Although two stories tall, these houses were not divided on the interior. The first floor was a large living space and the second floor an open sleeping space. 52In Angoon, a Tlingit village bombarded by the U.S. Navy in 1882 in a tragic incident, the new houses were American in style, one and a half stories with a gable front. The plan, however, was one undivided space, and some still had central smoke holes. 53

The introduction of the sheet-iron stove at the turn of the twentieth century transformed Eskimos' traditional dwellings: tunnel length was reduced, the cold trap eliminated, and the kitchen brought into the main room. 54When the Eskimos adopted an American style of housing, they adapted the new forms to the climate. At Point Hope the Natives built wood-framed houses but, finding them difficult to heat, covered them with sod blocks, so they resembled the Eskimos' original dwellings. 55On the Nushagak River, near Bristol Bay, the Eskimos put windows and doors in their traditional dwellings and later built log cabins. 56

The “pernicious practice” of building American-style dwellings had adverse consequences, particularly in the harsher climates. 57While the traditional semi-subterranean dwellings were criticized by non-Natives for being damp, dark, and, above all, smoky, the newer houses were cold and drafty. No longer could a house be heated by one seal-oil lamp, as the traditional Eskimo dwellings had been. Available driftwood, increasingly used to heat these new houses, disappeared rapidly. Because fuel had to be imported, the Eskimo could no longer live a purely subsistence existence.

Single-family houses brought an even more profound change than the materials of the dwelling itself. Although the extended family is still important and cooperation among families on specific projects is common, the nuclear family is increasingly responsible for its own economic welfare. To some extent this was the result of a change in the subsistence pattern; the introduction of rifles and other conveniences made the subsistence life more secure but at the same time required less cooperation among kin groups. 58Whereas previously the members of a village had to cooperate to round up a herd of caribou, now a solo hunter with a rifle can shoot all of the caribou his family requires.

A group of Native carvers repairing a totem pole at the U.S. Forest Service's shop at Saxman in 1941, signifying a new interest in traditional crafts.

Federal and state housing programs in the mid-twentieth century encouraged the shift to single-family households and wood-framed houses. In 1949, Congress funded a Remote Dwelling Program for Alaska with the explicit aim of replacing Natives' semisubterranean dwellings. The program provided $500 loans to Natives to purchase building materials for a frame dwelling measuring 10 feet by 12 feet or 14 feet by 18 feet. In its three-year life, the program made about seven hundred loans to thirty villages. Other government efforts included log cabins built by the Alaska Rural Development Board in Beaver in 1958–1959 59and rammed earth houses built by VISTA volunteers in Kotzebue and Mountain Village in 1968. 60

Stores, schools, and churches provide a counterpoint to the collection of small houses in a village. The 1976 resolution of the Molly Hootch case, a suit brought by a Native who demanded secondary-level education in her village, required the state to make a high school education available in every village that had an elementary school. As a result, scores of schools have been constructed in villages in the last fifteen years. The schools usually contain a gymnasium, library, and other facilities available to the community and have become major, important structures in the villages. Distinctive in the townscape, too, is the church, usually Russian Orthodox in areas the Russians had occupied.

Today, extensive housing constructed by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has transformed most Native villages. Manufactured housing, arranged in regular rows, characterizes the Native village today. Traditional housing is beginning to be recognized as an object of historical and cultural interest. Just as Native organizations are reviving language and crafts, they are reconstructing traditional dwellings as outdoor museums. 61Admired for their energy efficiency, use of indigenous materials, and craftsmanship, the traditional dwellings are visible expressions of Alaska's Native cultures.

Russian Alaskan Architecture

After Vitus Bering discovered Alaska for Russia in 1741, independent fur traders (promyshlenniki) colonized the southwest coasts. Receiving only sporadic support and attention from the Russian tsars, the acquisition of Alaska was a commercial venture, not an attempt to build an empire. In the first half-century, the promyshlenniki imposed their will on the Natives, enslaving and mistreating them in their quest for sea otter and fur seal pelts. When Tsar Paul I chartered the Russian-American Company in 1799, granting it a hunting and trading monopoly in the new land, Russian settlement began in earnest. Although the Russians developed sixty settlements in their 126-year occupation, the Russian population in America was never more than about eight hundred and never penetrated very far into the Interior, leaving vast stretches of Alaska unknown. 62

Faced with difficulties protecting such a large and distant territory and with the rapid depletion of the sea-mammal resources, Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867. The few buildings that survive from the period of Russian occupation are built of horizontal logs and are probably typical Russian-American construction. Despite repeated entreaties from Russian officials to build imposing and orderly settlements, the colony maintained a pragmatic appearance. The greatest architectural legacy is in the Russian Orthodox churches that continue to be built today. By imposing their religion on the Natives, the Russians also bestowed their architecture, so that churches with onion domes and three-part plans dot the landscape today, an unmistakable reminder of the period of Russian dominance.

Russian Settlement

For the first fifty years after Bering discovered Alaska, Russian exploration was sporadic, and settlement even more so. Although British, Spanish, French, and, later, American ships made exploratory journeys to Alaska, Russia managed to claim the land as its own. Rather than controlling the colony militarily, however, Russia left it to the promyshlenniki to enforce its claim. The promyshlenniki, however, were less interested in scientific knowledge or political empires than in furs. Originating as hunters and traders of the sable in Siberia, the promyshlenniki saw the potential of sea otter furs from the North Pacific, for which they found a ready market in China. They traded Alaskan furs for Chinese tea, a Russian obsession. Not adept at hunting sea otter, however, the promyshlenniki obtained the furs from Aleuts, who were well practiced and who had vessels ideally suited to the task in the form of kayaks, or baidarkas. The Aleuts' cooperation was not voluntary, however. The Russians forced them to hunt by demanding tribute and taking hostages. This mistreatment, added to the spread of disease and warfare, nearly annihilated the Aleuts, reducing their population by 80 percent. 63

Although the independent promyshlenniki spurned permanent settlements, a small village at Unalaska, extant from the 1770s, did serve as a way station. Here they built barabaras, in a form adapted from the Aleuts. Russian barabaras were above ground and were entered from a doorway placed in the wall, rather than through the roof. In the same treeless environment that the Aleuts experienced, Russians pragmatically copied their sod-covered, arched-roof dwelling. 64The Russians in turn influenced Aleut barabaras, for the Natives began to shift the entrance from the top to the wall and to include windows and stoves.

The Russians at Unalaska also built log houses—small, hip-roofed buildings of driftwood logs. Modest log houses were, in fact, typical in Russian America throughout its existence. Like the Russian izba, or cottage, they were blocklike in form, square or rectangular in plan, constructed of horizontal logs, either round or hewn. 65Borrowing Native traditions, however, the Russians covered the roofs with earth or grass.

Grigorii Ivanovich Shelikhov, a trader whose company was to gain exclusive control over the fur trade in Alaska, first visited the territory in 1784. In partnership with Ivan Golikov, Shelikhov established a permanent settlement at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island. By 1790 this settlement consisted of five buildings described at the time as being “after the Russian fashion”—probably of log construction. The barracks were “laid out in different apartments, somewhat like boxes at a coffeehouse, on either side, with different offices.” 66The small settlement, on a treeless harbor site like Unalaska, had a mixture of driftwood-log buildings and barabaras, arranged in an informal plan.

This was but one of Shelikhov's settlements in Russian America; in distributing some 160 of his fellow countrymen, Shelikhov sent only 40 to Three Saints. The others were spread over six different sites around South-Central Alaska, mostly in small settlements ranging from 10 to 40 people. Shelikhov also established forts at Afognak Island, Cook Inlet, and Prince William Sound. 67In instructing his manager, K. A. Samoilov, as to the construction of the posts, Shelikhov had an eye to comfort and practicality: “Build the harbors and forts I planned on Afognak Island and at Kenai, strong and substantial. Build sheds for baidaras and baidarkas and back of the fortification warm and comfortable barracks for Aleuts, with partitions, and a bathhouse for native employees and for the hostages.” 68Shelikhov also left instructions for a house for Vasilii Petrov Merkul'ev, who apparently performed the duties of a quartermaster:

Build for Merkul'ev where he chooses, at the harbor or where the artel [work crew] barracks are, a good house, well ventilated, where his wife can keep merchandise, with double walls and plenty of windows, so I or someone else can stay there too. The walls, floors and ceilings should be smoothly finished, and left to dry for a year, first without artificial heat and without nailing them down. Later, after they are dried with stoves, they should be nailed and must be made tight so that the sand cannot sift down from above. 69

The reference to double walls suggests a plank or board covering on the outside of the log walls, which, like the floors and ceiling, was nailed in place. Sand was used as insulation between floors.

Shelikhov's settlement at Three Saints Bay, in a drawing by Martin Sauer published in 1802 but drawn c. 1790–1792, had a mix of Aleut and Russian forms. The illustration was keyed as follows: 1, portable church; 2, observatory tent; and 3, galiot.

In 1790 Shelikhov hired the merchant Aleksandr Andreevich Baranov to manage his settlements on Kodiak Island. In his nearly thirty years in Alaska, Baranov was to wield tremendous power, establishing Russia's sovereignty in the face of Native resistance and meeting the competition from other world powers. One of Baranov's first actions was to move the settlement from Three Saints Bay to Pavlovsk Harbor, the present-day town of Kodiak. Located farther north on the island of Kodiak, where there were trees and a better harbor, the town was much more substantial and fortified than that at Three Saints Bay.

As was typical in Russian America under Baranov's reign, Kodiak was set on a promontory, a site that was more militarily advantageous than those of earlier settlements. The Natives posed the greatest threat to Russian control, but well-fortified settlements also sent a message to European powers that Russia's interest in Alaska was sincere. The impressive buildings at Kodiak included a semicircular, two-story, hewn-log fort and numerous other log buildings with grass-covered roofs. The Russians divided the upper floors of the multistoried buildings into three rooms, which were used as living quarters. They covered windows with seal intestines and heated the houses with stoves. 70

The traditional Russian log construction is illustrated by the one building that survives from this period, which the Russian-American Company built as a warehouse some time between 1805 and 1808 (see entry SW001, p. 284). 71The thick hewn logs are laid horizontally and notched at the corners. Each is gently grooved on the bottom to fit tightly over the one below. Although the size of buildings was usually limited to the length of the timbers, here the logs are lapped and interlocked at midpoint, to create the 66-foot-long walls. The roof was probably originally hipped but was changed to gable with a central pediment, probably in the mid-nineteenth century. After the building's conversion to a residence at the turn of the twentieth century, a bay window and porch were added, but the building remains a fine example of early Russian construction. It is the oldest building in Alaska.

View of Kodiak from the Sarichef atlas, published in 1826. The J-shaped fort is crowned with a flag, and the church has an octagonal cupola.

The plan of Kodiak, also from the Sarichef atlas. The key to the map includes a, the church; and f, the fort.

The plan of Kodiak was undistinguished, with hardly a straight street or right-angle placement of buildings, and the town soon fell into disrepair; when Russian Orthodox missionary Father Gideon visited in 1804, he found that a third of the fort “has already collapsed with age” and that “all these buildings are dilapidated.” 72

Wood was a natural material for construction, not only because of its ready availability in the territory on the Gulf of Alaska but also because it was traditionally used in eastern Russia. The spruce forests of Pacific Alaska provided the raw materials for ships as well as for buildings, and later even the sawdust was used to pack ice for export, during a brief attempt to diversify the economy. Wood was also used as fuel. Brick, needed to build hearths and chimneys, was being made in Kodiak as early as 1795, although not easily, according to Archimandrite Ioasaph: “It is extremely difficult to make bricks even for local needs: they bring the clay from a small island, they dry, crush and sift it, and then use it for making bricks; both the Russians and the domestic servants are occupied [in this work].” 73Soon, however, the Russians were producing from three thousand to six thousand bricks per year on Kodiak Island and would have made more, except for the shortage of lime. 74Lack of skilled builders prevented the use of stone as a construction material. Baranov complained: “It would do no harm to send a couple of men skilled in erecting buildings. We were going to build a stone powder magazine, but the lack of experienced people prevented us last year (1802), and now there are still fewer.” 75

In 1805, Russian-American Company representative N. P. Rezanov proposed constructing half-timbered buildings. Although there is no evidence that any such buildings were actually constructed, the Russian-American Company's efforts to civilize Alaska are crystallized in Rezanov's vision of Alaskan settlements as European villages:

To save labor and speed the construction I have ordered that buildings be made out of fachwerk. Foundations are to be built out of cobble stones, and instead of log walls, a light frame is to be erected, poles put between upright, and the space between filled with stones mixed with clay and chopped grass. These walls will be covered inside and outside with lime. The floors will be covered with sawdust with clay on top, and in every room will be a fireplace for ventilation. I ordered the roofs made out of grass, filling it with clay till smooth and finishing with a mixture of clay and lime. The buildings will look as if they were built of bricks. The roofs being light will not require heavy timbers to support them and will be safe from fire. The fireplaces will dry up the walls and floor very quickly. The construction will be easy, because the young trees grow right there on the beach; stones obstructing the roads can be used to good purpose and the place will be cleared. Excellent lime is obtained here from sea shells. According to my plans heavier lumber is required only for the ceilings. 76

Churches were another sign of stability and civilization, and the Russians built the first church in Alaska in Kodiak. The first priest did not arrive in Alaska until 1790, although many Aleuts were converted by the promyshlenniki, who as church members were empowered to baptize in the absence of a priest. Priest Vasilii Sifsof, traveling with the Billings-Sarychev expedition (a Russian government-sponsored scientific expedition led by an Englishman), brought a tent to serve as a portable church; it was erected shortly after their arrival. But the first serious attempt at bringing Christianity to the colony was undertaken by Shelikhov, who wished to gain favor with Empress Catherine II. In 1794, Shelikhov brought ten missionaries to Kodiak from the monastery of Valaam, near the Russian-Finnish border. Led by Archimandrite Ioasaph, they were promised that a church had already been erected. When they arrived, however, they did not have even a portable church. The following spring, Ioasaph complained to Shelikhov:

We do not have a travelling church even now. I asked the clerks and Aleksandr Andreevich [Baranov] to give us canvas for a tent but did not get it. Aleksandr Andreevich volunteered to build a small church here and construction began on November 21st. It was to be four sazhen [28 feet] square, with an addition of 1 – 1/2 sazhen [10 feet] for the altar, but the log walls are still not ready, so I have nothing to report to the Most Reverend Metropolitan. 77

The Church of the Holy Resurrection was completed by 1796, 78and in illustrations it appears to have been a complex structure with two cupolas and an irregular plan, far grander than most of the chapels, or first churches, at other Russian-American settlements.

Baranov soon came into conflict with the missionaries, who found his men profane and their own living conditions abominable. The missionaries objected to the Russians' treatment of the Natives, particularly their brutality toward the men and their loose morals with the women. On the other side, the company men found the missionaries worthless, as they did no labor in a seriously undermanned colony. In the face of threats by Baranov, the missionaries were afraid to come to church and were rendered ineffective. 79Two exceptions were Hieromonks Makarii and Iuvenalii, who traveled widely and reported they had baptized five thousand Natives. The others stayed close to home except for Father Herman, who secluded himself on Spruce Island, where he worked with the Natives. Missionary activity in Russian America was essentially dormant from 1796 to 1816. 80

In 1793, Shelikhov petitioned Empress Catherine II for assistance in establishing a settlement on the mainland of Alaska, near Cape Saint Elias. In the return order, written in the name of the tsarina by Lieutenant-General Ivan Peel of Irkutsk, Shelikhov was granted permission but also was instructed to lay out his town with some eye to aesthetics:

The houses with all additional buildings must be comfortable and attractive, properly removed from each other for fire safety. The streets must be straight, wide and divided into blocks with vacant plazas left in convenient places for future public buildings. In a word, knowing the local conditions, order this first settlement in America to be built as a standard city. Any disfiguring of it with crooked, narrow, impassable lanes and bypaths must not be permitted, so that in the future this first settlement may become the beautiful abode of a multitude of people, and the glory and renown of Russian art and taste may not be impaired! 81

Shelikhov dutifully passed these instructions on to Baranov, emphasizing first the public relations value:

It remains now, after finding a good location on the mainland, to build a well planned settlement, one that will look like a town instead of a village, even at the start. In case it cannot be avoided and some foreign ship comes, let them see that the Russians live in a well organized way. Don't give them a reason to think that Russians live in America in the same abominable way as in Okhotsk.

He next addressed location and site planning:

Please, dear friend, for your own pleasure and satisfaction, plan the new settlement to be beautiful and pleasant to live in. Have public squares for meetings and gatherings. The streets must not be very long but wide, and must radiate from the squares. If you choose a place in the woods, leave the trees on the streets in front of the houses and in garden. The houses should be well separated, which will make the settlement look bigger.

Specific architectural advice was brief:

The houses must be of uniform type and size.… The public buildings such as the church, monastery, office of clerical affairs, guardhouse, warehouses, store, etc., must be planned and constructed, and their sites chosen in the style of big cities.

Designing the buildings was left up to the priests, two of whom had been trained as engineers:

Send us a journal, plans, and your report about the opening of this new settlement.… Write on the plans the names of the buildings and the purposes they are to serve. You would do well to enclose sketches showing the profiles of the buildings. Fathers Juvenal and Stefan will do that for you. After you have the sketches made, you can construct the buildings according to them. 82

As ethnographer Svetlana Fedorova has pointed out, Shelikhov also suggested dwellings similar to the Siberian connected farmhouse:

… well built white cottages, with a passage to an adjoining pantry and cold room, or storeroom. Out-buildings such as barns, cattle-sheds and cellars should be placed in wings, taking care that they appear clean and attractive from the streets. 83

Baranov had neither the manpower nor the equipment to build any such city; at the time, fewer than three hundred Russians were under his command. 84What resulted, in 1796, was a paltry settlement at Yakutat, where Baranov had hoped for agricultural development to feed the rest of the colony. The site was poorly suited, the settlement was never a success, and it was finally destroyed by Tlingit Indians in 1805.

Shipbuilding was a more substantial accomplishment of Shelikhov's company. In 1791 Shelikhov sent shipbuilding materials to Baranov, who selected a heavily wooded site on the Kenai Peninsula called Resurrection Bay (present-day Seward). With a British shipbuilder in charge, the first ship was completed in 1794, and two more the next year, indicating some degree of craftsmanship and expertise. The Russians built at least twenty more ships at various shipyards in Alaska and California before 1867. 85

Shelikhov died in 1795, but his company prospered, led at first by his widow, Nataliia, and then by his son-in-law, N. P. Rezanov. The politically well-connected Rezanov formed the Russian-American Company out of Shelikhov's holdings and in 1799 was able to obtain exclusive rights to trade in Alaska for a period of twenty years, renewed twice. With its future secured, the Russian-American Company had reason to develop substantial settlements, and Baranov, elevated to general manager in 1802, was prepared to lead the way.

The Russian-American Company turned its attention to the east and south, due to the diminishing sea otter population of the Aleutian Chain and Alaska Peninsula. As a result of overhunting, the sea otters rapidly declined in numbers, and the Russians were forced to go farther to find them. A similar situation was developing in the Pribilof Islands, home of the fur seals. Discovered by the Russians in 1786, the Pribilofs were exploited for more than a million furs, until Rezanov, told that the fur seal population had declined by 90 percent, was forced to institute conservation measures in 1805. 86

Under the direction of Baranov, the Russian-American Company built a fortification on Sitka (now Baranof) Island, in Southeast Alaska, in 1799. The Tlingit Indians resisted the Russians. In 1802 they destroyed the fortification, massacring nearly all of the Russians and Aleut laborers there. In 1804, Baranov returned, destroying the nearby Tlingit village and building a new fort on its site. Named Novo-Arkhangelsk, or New Archangel, it became the capital of Russian America in 1808 and evolved into the present-day town of Sitka. Situated on a rock outcropping and surrounded by a palisade, the fort loomed over the harbor.

Again, Baranov received instructions regarding the appearance of the town. After visiting Alaska in 1805, Rezanov wrote, “The buildings should be constructed in straight lines according to the plans, in order to attract the people by their good appearance and to provide comfort for the Company's employees.” 87Faced with the necessity of running a fur-trading enterprise, not an empire, Baranov again disregarded architectural advice. Although some straight lines are apparent from the plan, Sitka was only slightly more organized than Kodiak.

Capt. Vasilii Mikhailovich Golovnin, a naval officer sent to inspect the colony in 1810, could say only this about Sitka: “In the fort we could see nothing remarkable. It consisted of strong wooden bastions and palisades. The houses, barrack magazines, and manager's residence were built of exceedingly thick logs.” 88One effect of the repeated directives to put forth a good appearance was that many of the buildings were oriented parallel to the street and shoreline, presenting their broadest face. Like Kodiak, Sitka consisted of log structures with hip roofs; like the surviving warehouse in Kodiak, the company store in Sitka was a low, one-and-a-half-story structure of thick round logs, hip-roofed with a pediment.

The governor's house at Sitka was built on a rock outcropping and heavily fortified, as depicted in an 1827 drawing by von Kittlitz.

The visiting naval officer Golovnin objected generally to the appearance of the settlements in Russian America, thinking they gave the wrong impression: “Foreigners visiting the colonies and finding nothing resembling provinces or fortified places belonging to the Russian crown, that is, nothing like a regular garrison, may quickly conclude that these places are nothing more than temporary defensive fortifications built by hunters to protect themselves against the natives, and consequently may have no respect for them.” 89This conflict between naval officer Golovnin's concern for the empire and merchant-manager's Baranov's concern for the bottom line caused the navy to assume a larger role in the Russian-American Company.

Under Baranov, the colony continued to prosper. By 1815, Kodiak had eighty-seven buildings and Sitka, forty-five. 90Baranov built a church at Sitka, and once again Russian Orthodox missionaries were welcomed. Priest Alexis Sokolov, in reporting to the company's board of directors, had nothing but praise for Baranov:

Arriving September 7, 1816, to the fort Novo-Arkhangelsk on Baranov Island, I was pleased to find a newly built, large and artistically finished two-story chapel, which was soon fitted for services as the temple of the Lord; adorned with becoming ornaments; provided with gilded silver vessels and other fixtures. March 18 of the same year it was consecrated with suitable rites to the name of St. Archangel Michael, thanks to the earnest cooperation of … Baranov. 91

The blocklike quality of these log buildings is emphasized in this 1827 drawing by von Kittlitz. The two-story octagonal church was built in 1816.

Contemporary illustrations of this church depict an octagonal log building, two stories in height, topped by an octagonal cupola. Gabled seams along the conical roof emphasized the verticality of the structure.

In 1820, paint was provided for buildings in Sitka, probably to retard the rapid deterioration of the wood and to preserve the metal of the roofs. The manager was instructed by the home office in 1822, “Please note that flat roofs, covered by iron, seem better for Sitkha buildings than steep roofs, liable to destruction from the strong gales you often have there.” 92The standard colors were red for roofs and yellow ocher for the buildings.

Candles or oil lit the houses, and Russian stoves heated them. These stoves, more akin to fireplaces than to the present-day notion of stoves, were described by scientist William H. Dall in 1870:

Here they are built of fragments of basalt, the prevalent rock, and smeared inside and out with a mortar made of clay. A damper in the chimney is so arranged as to shut off all draught, and is taken out when the fire is made. After the whole has been thoroughly heated by a wood fire the coals are removed. The damper is put in, thus preventing the escape of hot air by the chimney, and without further fire this stove will warm the room for twenty-four hours. It is admirably suited to the climate and the country, and its only objectionable point is the amount of room it occupies. 93

Turning even farther south, the Russian-American Company developed another settlement—this time in California. Founded in 1812, Fort Ross was intended to serve as a southern outpost for the fur trade, as well as an agricultural settlement to feed the rest of the colony. Neither aspect was very successful—the numbers of sea otters were dwindling in northern California and the Aleuts and promyshlenniki made poor farmers. Although Fort Ross expanded foreign trading opportunities, the settlement was abandoned in 1841.

During the Russian-American Company's second charter, which extended from 1821 to 1841, the company turned its attention north and inland. The board of directors even considered moving the capital back to Kodiak. 94Baranov had been replaced as general manager in 1818 and as a result of a corporate reorganization, a succession of naval officers administered the colony. The Russian government's first concern during the second charter was to establish boundaries of Russian America through negotiations with the United States and Great Britain. By two agreements, in 1824 with the United States and in 1825 with Great Britain, Russian America's southern boundary was established at 54°40' north latitude. American and British ships were given permission to fish and trade in Russian American waters. 95

In the 1820s, the Russian Orthodox church gained a permanent foothold in Russian America. A provision in the second charter instructed the company to maintain the missionaries, paying their salaries and providing adequate churches and priests' houses. As a result, the church sent a priest named Ioann Veniaminov to Unalaska in 1824, and an Alaskan creole priest, Iakov Netsvetov, to Atka in 1828. 96Both of these men translated the Bible into appropriate dialects of the Aleut language. Veniaminov produced ethnographic studies of the Aleuts, took a strong interest in science and medicine, and was an accomplished carpenter, designing and building the first Church of the Holy Ascension at Unalaska.

In 1834, Veniaminov went to Sitka. Elevated to bishop and given a new name, Innocent, in 1840, he remained in Sitka until 1858 when he was recalled to Russia. While in Sitka, he designed and built Saint Michael's Cathedral. The large log structure, cruciform in plan, had three altars. Low gable roofs were crowned at their crossing by a large dome, 28 feet in diameter, while a square bell tower in the front rose three stories. Surely the most magnificent building in Russian America when it was completed in 1848, the cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1966 but has since been reconstructed ( SE040, p. 185).

During its second charter, the Russian-American Company looked north and began establishing posts on the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. The Russians began their explorations of the land north of the Alaska Peninsula in 1819, when they established a redoubt, or small fortification, called Novo-Aleksandrovsk (New Alexander), at the mouth of the Nushagak River. In the 1830s, they established posts on the Kuskokwim River (Kolmakovsky), on Norton Sound (Michaelovsk, or Saint Michael), and on the Yukon River (Nulato). When outfitted as redoubts, these outposts gained a military appearance, emphasizing palisades and corner towers, but they were poorly manned and presented no real military threat. Frederick Whymper described the post at Saint Michael in 1866:

The military outpost of Saint Michael on Norton Sound had a small collection of buildings protected by a palisade. The octagonal church stood outside the walls, in the foreground. Henry Wood Elliott made this 1870 drawing from a sketch by scientist William Henry Dall.

The station is built on the model of a Hudson's Bay Company's fort, with enclosure of pickets, and with bastions flanking it. Inside are the store-houses and dwellings of the employes, including the “casine” ( caserne), or general barrack, bath and cook-houses. These painted yellow, and surmounted by red roofs, gave it a rather gay appearance. 97

Lieutenant Zagoskin, traveling among the northern posts in the early 1840s, had a more cynical view of these settlements:

A Russian is everywhere the same. Whatever the spot he chooses, whether it be on the Arctic Circle or in a blessed California valley, he establishes his characteristic Russian-type cabin, his cooking-place, his bath, and he provides himself with a housekeeper. But since some of the people who enter the colonial service come from simple backgrounds, when they are kept under semi-martial conditions, they call the area where they live, surrounded by a stout fence, a “fort,” the cabin the “barracks,” the smoke opening a “window,” the kitchen the “mess” and even the housekeeper has a different name. 98

Plans and side elevation of a church to be built at Kvikhpak (now Russian Mission), sent there in 1849. The plan is a standard Russian Orthodox layout, with (left to right) porch, narthex, nave, and sanctuary. The iconostas, separating the nave and sanctuary, is pierced by several doors.

The list of tools and materials required for building a church at Kvikhpak (present-day Russian Mission) in 1849 hints at the simplicity of construction. The entire list was, “2 large ripsaws, 4 carpenter axes, 5 chisels, 6 gimlets, 1 small anvil, 1 hammer, 1 grinding stone, 1000 nails, 100 spikes, 10 sheets of iron, 200 bricks, 4 pr. door hinges, 10 pr. shutter hinges, 100 window panes 13–1/3″ × 12″, paints, wallpaper and cloth.” 99

Bishop Innocent sent Father Iakov Netsvetov to Kvikhpak, where he built the church in two years with the aid of four Aleut carpenters. Kvikhpak's wooded site was remote, hundreds of miles from the nearest sawmill. The log construction was typical of Russian building at similar sites throughout Alaska. The men used the ripsaws to make planks for the floor, doors, and shutters. They used sheet metal to cover the roof and the bricks to form a Russian stove. They laid up walls of horizontal logs, spiked at intermediate points and notched at the corners. The instructions for building included drawings, which showed a square nave with a pyramidal roof topped by an onion dome. The sanctuary and vestibule had gable roofs. The vestibule roof projected slightly to protect the bells, which hung above the gable-roofed porch. 100The simple list of tools was intended to produce quite a complex building.

The church was the primary mission between the Russian posts of Saint Michael and Kolmakovsky; the three missions covered the area from Norton Sound to Bristol Bay. There was also a church at New Alexander (present-day Nushagak). Through these missions and attendant chapels, Innocent expanded the church's presence in Alaska from four churches and priests in 1840 to nine churches and thirty-five chapels less than twenty years later. 101

More importantly, Innocent prescribed an attitude toward the Natives that was gentle and respectful. His instructions to a missionary in 1853 included the following:

Ancient customs, so long as they are not contrary to Christianity, need not be too abruptly broken up; but it should be explained to converts that they are merely tolerated.…

On no account show open contempt for their manner of living, customs, etc., however these may appear deserving of it, for nothing insults and irritates these savages so much as showing them open contempt and making fun of them and anything belonging to them.…

In giving instruction and talking with natives generally, be gentle, pleasant, simple, and in no way assume an overbearing, didactic manner, for by so doing thou canst seriously jeopardize the success of thy labors.…

Those who show no wish to receive holy baptism, even after repeated persuasion, should not in any way be vexed, nor, especially, coerced. 102

By the time of the company's third charter, which extended from 1841 to 1861, the populations of sea otters and fur seals had declined and the bureaucracy had grown so that the company was hard put to make a profit. Early in the nineteenth century, manager Baranov had warned, “The company cannot exist by hunting alone … the amount of furs is diminishing every year.” 103Various ventures were undertaken. Both coal and ice were exported from Alaska to San Francisco in the 1850s. The company, frustrated at watching Americans corner the whaling trade, encouraged whaling among Russians and Aleuts. But all attempts at diversification were unsuccessful.

Despite the decline of the Russian-American Company's profits, however, the 1840s and 1850s were the period of greatest architectural sophistication. Captain 1st Rank Adolph Etholen, from Finland, the chief manager in Sitka from 1840 to 1845, oversaw considerable construction. Etholen brought other Finns, accomplished shipbuilders, who probably also applied their craftsmanship to buildings. P. A. Tikhmenev, the historian of the Russian-American Company, listed the projects during Etholen's tenure:

[A] new pier at New Archangel, on a stone foundation, and armed with twelve cannons, constituting the lower battery of the port; a stock warehouse; a building for the library; a depot for charts and astronomical instruments and for magnetic observations; living quarters for the observatory personnel; a Lutheran church; a social club; barracks for married soldiers; a powder magazine; a laundry; a new church on Kad'iak Island; and a sawmill and flour and water mill. 104

Some of the more impressive structures in Sitka rose in the 1840s, including Saint Michael's Cathedral, mentioned above, and the Bishop's House, one of the few Russian-era buildings still standing in Alaska ( SE041, p. 187). The Russian-American Company built the two-story, hip-roofed Bishop's House of hewn logs. The symmetrical fenestration and dramatic metal-clad roof created an imposing exterior, while the wallpapered and carpeted interior provided comfortable surroundings. A seminary occupied the first floor, and the second floor housed Bishop Innocent's chapel, living quarters and library.

One building in Sitka survives from the early 1850s, the Russian-American Company's Building No. 29 ( SE049, p. 193). This modest structure has been much altered over the years, but the original section was log construction, three bays wide, two stories tall. Like the Bishop's House, a layer of sand between floors insulated the building, and a bay at one end accommodated the stairway.

Architectural elaboration increased rapidly in the late 1850s, when the sawmill in Sitka was converted to steam power. At that time, the sawmill included “a planer, and machines for making blocks, cornices, window frames, and shingles. Patterns for the foundry are also made here and machines for the foundry, sheet metal shop, and blacksmith shop.” 105The most ornate example of Russian architectural craftsmanship was an Italianate company office building. Constructed in 1857, the building, which measured 80 feet by 40 feet, was constructed of logs and had a gable roof and five-bay front, dramatized by a peaked center bay. The log walls were covered with planks, laid flush to give a flat surface, ornamented by pairs of round-arch windows, a bold modillioned cornice, and wooden quoins at the corners. This full-blown example of the Italianate style in the Russian settlement partook of popular trends throughout the United States, seen in government-built customhouses and commercial buildings in frontier towns as well as in long-settled cities.

Despite this one model of modernity, Sitka's overall dilapidation struck visitors. Artist Frederick Whymper remembered the bright colors and old buildings when he visited Sitka in 1865:

The houses yellow, with sheet-iron roofs painted red; the bright green spire and dome of the Greek [Russian Orthodox] Church, and the old battered hulks, roofed in and used as magazines, lying propped up on the rocks at the water's edge, with the antiquated buildings of the Russian Fur Company, gave Sitka an original, foreign, and fossilized kind of appearance. 106

The log customhouse in Sitka, built in 1857, was architecturally the most elaborate building in the Russian colony, with modillions, dentils, quoins, and paired, round-arch windows. Eadweard Maybridge photographed it in 1868.

William Healy Dall visited Sitka at the same time as Whymper and was slightly more critical, “Much of it was more primitive than many western towns where the shingles are yet bright from the sawmill; yet the place was eighty years old.” 107

Meanwhile, Kodiak had been experiencing changing fortunes. While somewhat neglected in the first years of Sitka's prominence, Kodiak was revitalized in the 1820s with the proposal to return the capital there. At that time, the chief manager of the company sent a book of facades of various buildings so that the Kodiak manager could select some; the appearance of these buildings was paramount. 108When the capital did not return, Kodiak sank into another period of neglect. In the 1840s, chief manager Etholen undertook two ventures that affected Kodiak Island. The first was to consolidate the Native settlements, as had been done on Atka and Unalaska. On Kodiak and neighboring islands he consolidated sixty-five Native settlements into seven; much depleted by a smallpox epidemic in the late 1830s, the Native population on Kodiak was 1,365. 109Secondly, in the town of Kodiak, Etholen constructed a new church, one with three altars. 110In 1861 Captain-Lieutenant Pavel Nikolaevich Golovin described the settlers' houses in Kodiak (population 360): “They have large light homes with outbuildings, stockpens, gardens, et cetera. The interior walls in many homes are papered or are covered with sailcloth that has been decorated.” 111Etholen's building program was so great that in 1851 the company's board of directors cautioned the next administrator against new construction:

The colonial authorities must … exercise the greatest discrimination in designing new buildings.… you are therefore requested to keep in view that every extravagance in buildings for the mere purpose of affording spacious and luxurious lodgings for the employees and servants, being a direct burden, without adequate return to the Company, must be studiously avoided. 112

In the face of declining revenues, the company retrenched. An architectural impact was no longer desired. Instead, Russia began to look for ways to rid itself of a colony that had become a burden.

The Russian Orthodox Church

Often at odds with the Russian-American Company, the Russian Orthodox church endeavored to tend to the spiritual needs of the Russians in America and to carry out missionary work among the Natives. By 1860 there were nine Russian Orthodox churches (those served by resident priests) and thirty-five chapels (with visiting priests) operating in Alaska. After the departure of the Russian government, the church continued its involvement in Alaska; it prospered among the Natives, who today support eighty churches and chapels and count twenty thousand members throughout the state. 113

These church and chapel buildings constitute the most visible influence that the Russians have had on present-day Alaska. Other lasting cultural influences include associations with the Russian language: the language was spoken in some Native communities well into the twentieth century; Russian words have found their way into the language; and Russian names are in evidence throughout the state. 114The steam bath is another custom that may have been passed from the Russians to the Natives. Although the Native baths were part of the social structure before contact with the Russians, they were fire baths, or dry air, as opposed to the Russian-introduced steam bath, where water was splashed on hot stones. 115But the persistence of the religion ranks as the most indelible trait of Russian governance, and the church buildings as tangible illustrations. 116While not one church building remains in Alaska from Russian times, forms typical of the Russian era are even now being built.

Architecturally, buildings of the Russian Orthodox church in Alaska are characterized by three-part plans, axial symmetry, an east-west orientation, wooden construction, and onion domes. While each of these elements has its origin in Russia, its characteristic incorporation into the Alaskan churches results in a style that is distinctly Alaskan.

In typical Alaskan Russian Orthodox churches, the basic elements are the sanctuary, which contains the altar; the nave, which holds the worshippers; and the narthex or vestibule. The nave and sanctuary are separated by the iconostas. This screen, which runs across the width of the building, is ornamented with icons and carvings and pierced by several doors. The doors in the center, the royal doors, are opened and closed during the service, alternately disclosing and concealing the altar; only the priest and deacon are allowed to walk through these doors. Flanking doors provide access for auxiliary clergy, altar boys, and laymen. Icons, painted representations of religious figures, are arranged on the iconostas in a prescribed order. Besides the visual feast of the icons, Russian Orthodoxy appeals to other senses as well: an a cappella choir accompanies most services, bells outside the church ring at designated times during the service, and incense permeates the air.

The sanctuary, located at the east end of the building, is accessible only to the priest and his lay assistants during the service, and only to men at other times; women are not permitted within. In the nave, the congregation usually stands throughout the service—men on the right and women on the left—although benches are provided for the elderly. The churches also have some sort of vestibule or narthex, closed off from the nave, to protect the nave from cold outside air. Each of these rooms—sanctuary, nave, and vestibule—is often expressed on the exterior through a different building shape or roof form, thus providing the articulation of the three-part plan.

Although the way in which these elements are arranged in Alaskan churches is standard—sanctuary, iconostas, nave, and vestibule, running from east to west on axis—particular plans vary dramatically. When the sanctuary is a separate element, it can be rectangular or polygonal in plan; when it is incorporated into the same mass as the nave, it occasionally retains a polygonal plan. The vestibule or narthex is rectangular, ranging from a small enclosed porch to a space the width of the nave. The greatest variety of plans is found in the nave, which can be a simple rectangle, an octagon, a square, or a cross.

The rectangular plan derives from the standard Russian dwelling, the izba, a blocklike square or rectangle with a gable roof. This was simply transferred to a church; the sanctuary could be added in an additional block in the east end and the vestibule on the west. 117The 1936 church in Lower Kalskag ( WE022, p. 276) and the 1905–1906 church in Saint Paul ( SW018, p. 297) are examples. While the sanctuary, nave, and vestibule have different dimensions, they are united by the similar slopes to their gable roofs.

The octagon is most likely a remnant of the tent-roof churches of Russia, known as the shater. These shater, which may have derived from fortification watch towers, had tall, dramatic tent roofs and octagonal plans. Favored by a dissenting sect of the Russian Orthodox, these church forms were banned in the seventeenth century. The octagonal plan, with a more modest roof, survived and in Alaska was a common form for the first church building on a site. The chapel built in Unalaska in 1808, for instance, was in this form, incorporating the sanctuary within the octagon. Another example of the octagon was at the outpost of Saint Michael, while the first church in Sitka was a two-story variation. The only surviving example is the church in Juneau, constructed in 1893–1894 as the first Russian Orthodox church in that town ( SE021.1, p. 175).

In this lithograph by Louis Choris, c. 1820, the octagonal church built at Unalaska in 1808 is on the left. The buildings to the right are a mix of mounded barabaras and hip-roof Russian structures. In the foreground, Aleuts in traditional headwear paddle a kayak.

The third Alaskan church form is the square, or nearly square, plan with a hip roof, which was often crowned by an onion dome. 118Often similar in dimensions to the rectangular plan, the buildings are distinguished by their roof forms; the hipped roof of the square plan emphasizes its squareness, while the gable roof of the rectangular plan expresses its linearity. Examples of the square form include the 1821 church at Saint Paul, with the sanctuary, narthex, and bell tower forming separate elements.

The fourth plan is the cruciform, a form found only rarely in Alaska. Saint Michael's Cathedral in Sitka, constructed under the supervision of Bishop Innocent in 1844–1848, is the best example of this type, with gable-roofed arms intersecting the gabled nave, crowned by a large dome on an octagonal drum ( SE040, p. 185). The cathedral has three altars. The Church of the Holy Resurrection in Kodiak, constructed in 1874, and its replacement built in 1946 ( SW002, p. 284), were also cruciform in plan, as was the church at Ninilchik, erected in 1901 ( SC068, p. 123). A variation and combination of the square and cruciform plans appears in the Church of the Holy Ascension, constructed in Unalaska in 1894 ( SW014, p. 291), also with three altars. Here, the tall nave, almost square in plan, is crowned by a hip roof, but the wings, also hip roofed, give the church a cruciform plan.

The church at Saint Paul in the Pribilof Islands, built of driftwood in 1821, has a standard arrangement of sanctuary, nave, and narthex (left to right).

Built after the Russians had sold Alaska to the United States, this architecturally sophisticated church in Saint Paul was supported by the Aleut congregation, which paid $15,000 for its construction in 1873–1875. The church was demolished in about 1906 when the present church was built.

The use of these four forms was not a chronological progression; all of them were in use at one time. One of the earliest forms used, and simplest to construct, is the gable-roofed rectangular plan, which is the most frequently used in the twentieth century.

Other architectural elements found in various combinations—the bell tower, onion dome, and interior dome—enliven these basic plans. The bell tower, which in Russia stood apart from the church, in Alaska was attached—either rising from the roof of the narthex or rising directly from the ground—and was always centered on the facade to preserve the symmetry. Onion domes, the most distinctive element of Russian Orthodox churches, usually crowned the bell tower and nave. Beside the bold onion domes atop the churches, there were interior domes as well, usually set on octagonal drums. They rose over the nave, like that at Saint Michael's Cathedral. Located just in front of the iconostas, these domes were often lit by windows in the drum, shedding light on the iconostas and the priest who stood in front of it to speak. Interior domes were also constructed without windows, appearing as a recess in the ceiling.

Despite the variety of forms, the materials remained constant: wood was invariably the structural material. While the earlier churches were constructed of horizontal logs, the church forms adapted well to light wood framing. Coverings of horizontal wood siding were common on both log and wood-framed structures. Today sidings include aluminum and cement asbestos shingle. 119

Color enlivened the churches, both inside and out. On the interior, brilliant colors drew all eyes to the iconostas and altar, and gilding and lighting made the icons and altar sparkle and glow. The exteriors of most of the existing churches are painted white, often with blue and sometimes green trim, but they were traditionally much more colorful. In 1879, the Unalaska church had “a bright blue, onion-shaped dome that rests on a bright green tower. The frame structure of the church is a vivid yellow.” 120

The churches were often situated a little apart from the village, preferably on a small hill. This emphasized their separateness—clearly this was not a house, either in shape or size—and displayed their unusual forms, dominating the village.

All of these elements combined to produce buildings with lively profiles. The sanctuary, nave, and vestibule were easily identified on the exterior, each defined by a different form; when joined by additional exterior elements such as bell tower, dome, and onion domes, the effect was dazzling and unmistakable—a uniquely Alaskan Russian Orthodox church. 121

Eastern Orthodox churches are found today scattered over many parts of the Lower 48. Though they represent several ethnic groups from different parts of Europe, they share, along with the Alaskan Orthodox, a common Byzantine religious source, and all cling faithfully to their architectural tradition. This results in unmistakable common features in their churches, such as the domes on the exteriors, the hierarchical organization of the interiors, and the icon screens, even though the historical background of the Orthodox church in Alaska is very different from that in the Lower 48, where it is essentially the result of twentieth-century immigration from eastern Europe. And even as the native carriers of the tradition are unique to Alaska, so is the remote but moving landscape in which their churches were found.

The interior of the church in the preceding photograph. The mahogany iconostas is ornamented with handsome icons imported from Russia.

Other traditions of Russian architecture were not carried through to the American period. Although Americans built log cabins, they were derived from western America and rarely featured squared logs or hip roofs. In boomtowns of the American gold rush period, sawmills were established, so wood-frame construction, which was fast and inexpensive, was prevalent. The sturdy, blocklike Russian dwellings disappeared from the Alaskan landscape, except in a few settlements that were predominantly Russian and creole. Russian influences on domestic architecture were forgotten when Americans started pouring into Alaska in search of instant riches.

American Alaskan Architecture

When the Stars and Stripes was raised over Sitka on 18 October 1867, the first wave of American opportunists was already populating the town. Although few stayed for very long, they set a pattern that has characterized Alaska for more than a century. Alaska attracts newcomers in search of opportunity: to get rich quick panning for gold, to spread religion among heathens, to test themselves against the elements, to settle in a young state that values abilities over patrimony. Most of these Americans brought to this challenging new world familiar elements from home: language, clothing, food, and architecture.

If false-fronted commercial buildings along a boardwalk characterized towns in the goldfields of California, then that is what the new settlers would build in Alaska. If Queen Anne cottages populated the neighborhoods of Seattle, then they too would be built here. If Cape Cod cottages expressed the suburban ideal, then they would be built here. But Alaska is not a carbon copy of the Lower 48; the architecture differs markedly. First, the buildings are by and large less stylish, although the basic forms can be linked to popular styles. Second, indigenous construction materials are limited to wood and concrete. Consequently, structures of wood or concrete and prefabricated buildings characterize the construction scene. Finally, the climate—to an extent found in no other state—shapes architecture in a variety of ways.

The plainness of Alaskan buildings, like many frontier dwellings, reflects the expedient nature of their construction. For the first or even second building on a site, an immediate need for shelter was the primary concern. As a result, the buildings were constructed with an eye to practicality, not fashion. Log cabins, requiring few tools and little fabrication, were usually the first buildings to replace tents at a given site and remain today the preferred form for wilderness sites and do-it-yourself builders. To the extent that the wood-framed buildings reflect prevailing styles, they do so more by form than ornament. Queen Anne cottages were built in the Lower 48 cities as one-story buildings, often L-shaped, featuring bay windows and front porches with gingerbread trim. In Alaska, these cottages were built, but without the stylistically identifying ornament. Bungalows, too, were plainer, as simple front-gabled, one-story buildings with front-gabled porches but without the art glass, wide eaves, and battered porch posts that would clearly identify them as bungalows. Yet the form of these small buildings recalls their more fashionable cousins.

Construction materials posed a special challenge in Alaska. In the part of the state that is forested, wood was the chosen frontier building material, as in the settlement of the rest of the United States. Whether log cabins or wood-framed houses, the architecture used wood freely and without artifice. This reliance on wood has continued to the present, with consciously rustic buildings employing exposed wood trusses and log (or branch) ornament. Even though today most commercial lumber is imported, wood continues to be a popular material. Not so brick and stone. Alaskan clay does not lend itself to satisfactory construction brick, and all brick is imported. While the state has some fine stone, including marble, the rugged Alaskan topography renders its transportation too expensive for widespread use. Concrete, on the other hand, has been used extensively as a construction material since the 1920s. Mixed in Alaska, poured in place, and fireproof, it has been an ideal material for public and commercial buildings. In the last two decades, architects and contractors have experimented with colored and textured concrete, increasing its viability as a decorative as well as functional material. Also currently popular for commercial buildings are enameled, metal panels. Colorful and durable, they are well suited to the climate.

The high cost of imported materials and labor in addition to the short building season create a situation in which prefabricated buildings are extremely practical. The canvas tent of the gold stampeders was one of the first prefabricated shelters, and it began a long tradition. Galvanized iron buildings were brought to gold-rush towns such as Nome and Circle. Ready-cut buildings, buildings whose lumber was prepared to specification and shipped in to be assembled on site, were also used. Other buildings were designed to be mobile. The wanigan, a one-room, wood-framed dwelling, was built on skids (sledlike runners) so that it could be moved in the wintertime.

World War II sparked development of several forms of prefabricated dwellings. The quonset hut, Loxtave buildings (horizontal plank walls with a locking system at the corners), and Harman houses (a prefabricated steel design) appeared in Alaska in the 1940s. A modern wanigan, likewise favored for remote working conditions, is the ATCO trailer popularized during pipeline construction—a bland box of four rooms, each with an exterior entrance. (ATCO was founded in Calgary as the Alberta Trailer Company but is today known just as ATCO.) With the automobile, tents became campers, towed on a trailer. Mobile homes were a larger, more permanent version. Without the wheels, these buildings are known as manufactured houses—two long prefabricated sections put together to form a “double-wide” house. Although this housing form's uniformity, bland design, and lack of cultural identity are seen as the scourge of the Alaskan landscape today, it continues a long tradition of prefabricated construction.

Strong regional differences in climate were reflected in Alaska's traditional Native architecture. The architecture of the last century, while maintaining some regional variations, is far more uniform, responding to cultural imperatives. The most visible cold-weather adaptations in American Alaskan architecture include orientation of the building, small size, and vestibules, or arctic entries, added to everything from log cabins to quonset huts. Permafrost, which underlies about 60 percent of Alaska, melts when the insulating tundra layer is removed or when heat from a building is transferred to the ground, causing a building to settle unevenly, or even to cave in. Where possible, building sites on permafrost are avoided. But where necessary, buildings can be built on piling and the building leveled as the piles sink unevenly; on thermopiles, which dissipate heat around the piles; or on a thick layer of gravel.

The climate affects design most noticeably in northern and western areas, where severe temperatures combine with strong winds. Architects and builders have invented a number of high-tech solutions to cope with severe cold, strong winds, and drifting snow, particularly for the North Slope and other arctic regions. Roofs are designed for minimum wind resistance, and structures are set on raised piers so that snow blows under them. Water and sewer pipes are placed in insulated conduits called utilidors. Prefabrication is especially favored, due to construction costs that include labor at over $100 an hour on the North Slope.

Aside from climate and materials, Alaska's architecture is explained by its history—how Americans influenced Native architecture to the point of extinction of traditional forms, how the exploitation of Alaska's natural resources influenced settlement and development, how official neglect discouraged permanent building, and later, how government intervention spurred development. Even beyond Alaska's unique heritage framed by Natives and Russians, Alaska's history as an American district, territory, and state is like no other.

From the Purchase to the Gold Rush

After the expansion-minded United States acquired Alaska in 1867 for $7.2 million, this nation largely ignored its new holding. In its first thirty years as a U.S. possession, Alaska saw only sporadic and unenthusiastic official interest. Two major exports in the late nineteenth century, salmon and gold, attracted Americans. Although most of the profits of these industries went to San Francisco or New York, some of the workers stayed. By 1897, on the brink of the Klondike gold rush, the American influence in Alaska was evident in its more than five thousand U.S. residents, in the growing influence of the Protestant missions, and in the boomtown architecture.

The fur trade, which had been the Russians' primary source of income, diminished toward the end of the nineteenth century. The Pribilof Islands produced an average of $2.5 million worth of fur seal skins annually from 1870 to 1890 for the Alaska Commercial Company, which had obtained a monopoly from the U.S. government. After 1890 the fur seal population fell off dramatically, and conservation measures were taken. The San Francisco-based Alaska Commercial Company also traded in the western part of the territory for beaver, marten, and other furs trapped by Natives. A half-dozen fur companies challenged the Alaska Commercial Company's dominance.

Aided by new canning technology, the salmon-packing industry rose to prominence in Alaska's economy after its introduction in 1878. The Russians had salted salmon, mostly for local consumption. At first, the Americans continued to salt and dry salmon but had difficulties finding markets for the products. The canning industry began in 1878 when the Cutting Packing Company built a cannery at Old Sitka, 6 miles north of Sitka, and Sisson, Waters and Company built another at Klawock on Prince of Wales Island. These canneries, the first of many financed by San Francisco capital and using machinery to top and solder the cans, produced about thirteen thousand cases per year. In 1882, a cannery built on the Karluk River on Kodiak Island doubled total output. 122Salmon canning continued to increase geometrically as new canneries were constructed and new areas were fished. By the turn of the century, there were fifty-five canneries producing over $2 million worth of canned salmon per year.

Architecturally, canneries were distinctive because of their proximity to water, large size, wood-frame construction, and gable roofs. To accommodate drastic tides (varying 30 feet in Cook Inlet, for example) and to facilitate disposal of waste, canneries were often built on piling out over the water. The industry was mechanized incrementally. Mechanical filling machines were developed in 1884, and machines to remove heads, fins, and guts became available in 1903. New machines required larger buildings, stretching for 100 feet or even 200 feet in length. These wood-framed buildings, often covered with vertical-plank siding, contained the cannery machinery and supplies. Other buildings at cannery sites included the machine shop, mess hall, and lodging for the workers. The canneries were typically used only a month or two out of the year. After depleting a fishery area, cannery operators closed plants and moved machinery to new locations, leaving the buildings to deteriorate.

As with any resource-based industry, the proliferation of canneries was a mixed blessing for Alaska. They tended to be owned by non-Alaskan companies, to employ nonresidents, and to be used only seasonally. In 1901, the industry employed 4,584 whites, who were probably both seasonal and permanent residents; 2,388 Natives, who were obviously permanent residents; and 4,664 Chinese, members of labor gangs, who were imported only for the short salmon season and then returned to San Francisco or Seattle. 123The companies owning the canneries became larger and larger; when the industry overproduced in 1891, driving the price down, the Alaska Packers Association formed to regulate output. 124By 1901, the association and one other corporation controlled forty of the fifty-five canneries. 125The intense harvesting of salmon was devastating to many Natives. By setting a trap at the mouth of a river, the canneries often blocked the salmon run so effectively that Natives fishing upstream were unable to catch enough salmon to survive. Effective legislation to protect the salmon run was not enacted until 1906.

Gold was the resource that would put Alaska on the map, and gold brought Americans to Alaska long before the Klondike gold rush of 1897–1898. As early as 1861, prospectors stampeded to the Cassiar District in British Columbia. Reached by the Stikine River, whose mouth was close to Fort Wrangel (present-day Wrangell) in Alaska, the Cassiar District had attracted more than a thousand miners by 1875. 126A number of them wintered in Fort Wrangel, and others searched the coast for strikes.

The most significant early gold strike in Alaska was at present-day Juneau, where Richard T. Harris and Joe Juneau struck gold in 1880. The two men staked claims, organized the Harris Mining District, named for Richard, and laid out a grid-plan townsite, eventually named for Joe. By the next year, over one hundred men had followed, most of them mining placer gold. Placer mining, requiring only a washing process to separate gold from gravel, could be undertaken with few men and little equipment.

But Juneau's real wealth lay in lode deposits. John Treadwell, a California contractor and mining engineer, developed the first lode gold mine in 1882. On Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau, the Glory Hole, an open pit mine, covered 13 acres on the surface and was excavated to a depth of 2,000 feet by 1917. To separate the gold from the hard rock in which it was lodged, Treadwell built a 5-stamp mill in 1882; by 1888, he had 360 stamps, to form one of the nation's largest gold plants. (A stamp mill was a giant iron hammer that pulverized the chunks of ore so that the gold could be separated out.) Large timber-framed structures sheltered these mills, while additional wood-framed buildings housed administrative offices, workers, and mess halls. The Treadwell operation required a large capital investment but remained profitable until a disastrous cave-in and flood in 1917. The four Treadwell mines had turned the ground into a honeycomb of drifts and shafts. The cave-in flooded three of the mines; the fourth operated only until 1922. 127

The Presbyterians' boarding school for Native boys in Sitka was housed in the building on the left. Under construction when this photograph was taken c. 1883 is the building for the girls, who had previously been educated in Wrangell.

By the late 1880s, prospectors had penetrated the interior of Alaska, finding an occasional strike. The first rush followed the 1886 discovery of gold on the Fortymile River. A larger strike at Birch Creek in 1893 helped create the Yukon River town of Circle City (named for its supposed location on the Arctic Circle; actually, it was 75 miles south). Claiming to be both the “greatest log cabin town in the world” 128and the largest town on the Yukon before the Klondike gold rush, 129Circle's population soared from about 500 in 1895 to 1,200 in 1896, and lots sold for $2,000. In 1896, the nearby diggings produced over $1 million worth of gold. 130Judge James Wickersham, who held court there in 1900, described Circle City in its heyday:

Every building was constructed of round spruce logs cut in the nearby forest. The Grand Opera House was of the spread-eagle type of architecture, the only double-decker in the city. The saloons, the stores, the church, and the sanctum of the Yukon Press, the dance halls, and the Indian rancheries, miners' cabins and dog houses were all one-story and squat, with every flat pole roof covered a foot deep with sod. 131

But with news of discovery of gold on a tributary of the Klondike River on 17 August 1896, Circle's population shrank, and by 1900, Wickersham recorded that the town was “almost abandoned.” 132

Native graduates of the Presbyterians' school were encouraged to build these single-family cottages in which to set up American-style housekeeping.

Just as Russian promyshlenniki were complemented by Russian Orthodox missionaries, American fishermen and miners were accompanied by American Protestant missionaries, the most notable of whom was Rev. Sheldon Jackson. In 1877, Jackson accompanied the first Presbyterian missionaries to Alaska, who established a mission in Wrangell. Even though he had only reluctant support from the national church, Jackson, like other American missionaries through the history of the United States, saw an expansive role for Presbyterianism in converting and educating the Natives. Unlike the Russian Orthodox missionary Veniaminov, Jackson advocated the eradication of Native culture in favor of a complete adoption of an American way of life. In 1882, he rebuilt the Sitka Mission, then called the Industrial Home for Boys. This boarding school for the most promising Natives instructed them in vocational skills and the four R's (reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and religion) and introduced them to American dress and behavior. In theory, these “educated” Natives would return to their villages and influence their neighbors.

The situation of the Natives in Sitka provided one of the more formidable tasks for the missionaries. The Sitka Tlingits, segregated by the Russians into a village of traditional plank houses on the west side of town, had long lived in the shadow of the white town and depended economically on the whites for trade. The Presbyterians deliberately built the Sitka Mission apart from the Indian village, on the east side of town, to separate the students from the evil environment from which they came. The first building expressly built for the school, Austin Hall, was constructed in 1882, reusing materials from the abandoned cannery 6 miles away. The two-story building, measuring 100 feet by 50 feet, had a jerkinhead gable roof. 133Two years later the boys' dormitory was joined by one for girls. These early buildings do not survive, but the school has evolved into Sheldon Jackson College, still operating in Sitka ( SE045, p. 190).

The Presbyterians also established a revolving loan fund so that recent graduates of the school, married to one another, could set up housekeeping in appropriate American-style single-family dwellings. The houses were 24 feet square, one and a half stories, with a living room, kitchen, pantry, and wood closet on the first floor and two bedrooms and a closet on the second. 134The loans were for $350, payable in five annual installments. That sum paid for building materials; the construction was undertaken by the graduates, who had been trained in the building arts. By 1898, eight houses had been constructed and five of the loans had been paid off. 135The houses were clustered near the school, away from the Indian village. 136

At the same time, the missionaries encouraged the Natives in the Indian village to replace their communal dwellings with single-family housing. The missionaries repeatedly expressed concern for sanitation to combat disease, particularly tuberculosis. But more important was their goal of civilizing the Native. American-style housing was equated with the American way of living, most explicitly in several annual governor's reports. Gov. Alfred P. Swineford described the Aleuts in 1886, “That they are well advanced in civilization is evidenced by the fact that they live in comfortable houses.” 137Two years later, Swineford described the Indians in Sitka, “With their dawning civilization has come a desire for better things, and as fast as they can accumulate the means they employ them in the building of new houses of modern style.” 138By 1902, James G. Brady, governor and former missionary, boasted that not one traditional dwelling remained in Sitka. 139

Another approach to missionary work was undertaken by Rev. William Duncan at Metlakatla. Duncan, a Church of England lay missionary who first settled among the Tsimshian Indians near Port Simpson, British Columbia, developed a community of loyal followers. Arriving in Canada in 1857, Duncan attracted nearly a thousand Tsimshians to a close-knit, self-sufficient community. Demanding that the Natives give up their old ways, Duncan housed them in wood-framed, single-family dwellings, introduced them to capitalism and the Bible, and instituted a form of limited self-government.

After a quarrel with his church in 1887, Duncan moved the entire community to New Metlakatla (present-day Metlakatla) on Annette Island in Southeast Alaska, where they established a new village. Within three years, they had built ninety-one houses. Most were square, wood-framed, two-story structures, many with a Victorian irregularity of plan and ornament. Unusual buildings included a twelve-sided, twelve-gabled church, which became the town hall when a new church was built in 1896. The new church, measuring 70 feet by 100 feet, was a twin-towered Gothic creation, with two-stage buttresses, constructed of wood. To aid in self-sufficiency, Metlakatlans built a sawmill and a cannery and purchased their own ship. In 1891, Annette Island was declared an Indian reservation by the U.S. government, the first in Alaska. The success of Duncan's community depended on excluding the world at large (the Tsimshian police force was particularly harsh with anyone caught furnishing liquor to the residents). Duncan's exceedingly paternalistic society ultimately disintegrated when its members demanded more power than Duncan saw fit to give them. 140

Duncan's isolationist approach contrasted with Jackson's strategy of selectively training and then mainstreaming Natives, and the latter view was adopted by most other missionary groups in Alaska. Because his resources were limited and the land so vast, Jackson called a meeting in 1880 with representatives of other Protestant denominations to invite them to open missions around Alaska. Representatives chose to focus their attentions on the various regions of the state. The Methodists at the meeting selected the Aleutian Islands; Baptists, Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet; and Episcopalians, the Yukon River. 141The Presbyterians had a clear claim to Southeast, and they also took Point Barrow. Other denominations, among them the Roman Catholics, also began missionary activity in Alaska at about this time.

The Episcopalians, continuing the Church of England's work on the Yukon River, arrived in the Interior about the same time as American gold seekers. At remote sites such as Nenana and Anvik, they opened stations that had a church, a school, and often a hospital. The educational and medical services attracted area Natives, who were encouraged to build a new settlement with log or wood-framed dwellings in the shadow of the mission. Most of the mission buildings were modest in size, plain in appearance, and usually log in construction. The church might be distinguished by a bell tower, and the school might have more windows than other buildings, but generally they were little different architecturally than other American Alaskan buildings. One exception was Saint Peter's-by-the-Sea Church, the seat of the bishop, which was located in the capital, Sitka. Saint Peter's timber frame was filled with stone and the front featured a round arch in the gable end ( SE044, p. 189). This picturesque church, constructed in 1899, was equaled in aesthetic achievement by the mission church at Tanana, which also featured a round arch in the gable end, but was constructed of logs and frame and sided with shingles ( IN031, p. 235).

The Episcopalians' mission churches were usually small log buildings, marked by a modest cupola. This is Saint Stephen's in Fort Yukon, photographed in 1909.

The Roman Catholic Mission at Holy Cross on the Yukon had some of the largest and most elaborate buildings on the river. The church, not unlike a late eighteenth-century New England church, was built in 1886. The large, wood-framed building had a square bell tower topped by a Baroque belfry; round-arch windows punctuated walls that were sided horizontally. Inside, the ceiling was barrel-arched, spaces were separated by columns, and the walls were ornamented with carving and painting. Nearby, a two-and-a-half-story frame building with prominent dormer windows served as the boarding school. Several dozen log cabins, the common domestic form for Americans in the Alaskan Interior, housed a Native population.

Extending his influence far beyond the church, the pioneer Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson arranged to be appointed Alaska's first general agent for education in 1885. A sharp politician who spent most of each year in Washington, D.C., even while general agent for education, Jackson took this appointment as a mandate to continue his civilizing of the Natives. Faced with woefully inadequate funds to educate a widespread population, he used the missions to accomplish his goals. He employed mission teachers as government teachers and transferred four Presbyterian schools (at Hoonah, Wrangell, Haines, and Howkan) to the government. At the end of his twenty years as general agent, there were forty schools around Alaska with an enrollment of two thousand. 142

Jackson was also active as a self-appointed Alaska lobbyist to Congress. When acquired in 1867, Alaska fell under jurisdiction of the War Department. After ten years, the army withdrew, leaving the U.S. Customs Service in charge. The 1884 Organic Act established the first civil government for Alaska and became as notable for what it did not do as for what it did. This Organic Act provided for a governor, with no real power, and a district court judge. Instead of granting territorial status, the act declared Alaska a district to be governed directly by Congress in the same way as the District of Columbia. Furthermore, the Organic Act did not extend any land laws to the district, thereby discouraging settlement and development.

As it was impossible to homestead or to acquire property through any other means, residents had no incentive to build substantial houses. Houses could be built, but their ownership was not guaranteed. In Sitka, Americans occupied the buildings left by the Russians, who had nearly all departed by 1870. The government, too, occupied Russian buildings. Where Americans did build extensively, such as at Juneau, they constructed plain houses of light wood framing, supplied by new sawmills that increasingly provided lumber for local needs. By 1901, there were twelve sawmills operating in Southeast. 143

The Catholics built an impressive church at Holy Cross on the Yukon River. Beside it is the boarding school for Natives.

Americans' interest in Alaska was hesitant at first. Although attracted by the natural resources, they migrated there in fits and starts. Many came with no intention to settle permanently and may also have been discouraged by the lack of economic stability and law and order. The government did not put money into construction or public works, and as a result, neither did private interests. At the beginning of the gold rush, Alaska's white settlement was concentrated mostly in port towns, housed in old Russian buildings or in wood-framed boomtown buildings.

From the Gold Rush to the First World War

Alaska's somnolent state changed abruptly when, late in 1896, gold was discovered in Canada's Klondike region. Although it was not until the next summer that word of the strike reached “Outside” (that is, beyond Alaska), by 1898 thousands of people were pouring into the Klondike to find their fortunes. Their hopes were justified; the Klondike would yield over $200 million in gold, as it became North America's largest placer goldfield outside of California. The romance of the gold, especially in a depression-ridden United States, attracted the adventurers as never before.

An estimated 100,000 people started for the goldfields, although only about a third ever got there. 144Perhaps 2,000 of them attempted the all-Canada routes, but most came by way of Alaska. From northern Southeast Alaska, the prospectors climbed the Chilkoot Trail, which was too steep for packhorses or sleds so that all supplies had to be carried on one's back. Another, even longer and higher route from northern Southeast Alaska was the White Pass; an even longer route was the Chilkat Trail. Other courses included going up the Yukon River by steamboat, a circuitous but less taxing route, or over the Valdez Glacier, the most dangerous course. The profitable areas in the Klondike were soon claimed, and would-be miners spread out throughout the Yukon and Interior Alaska.

Subsequent strikes in Alaska caused this mobile population to rush to each emerging scene—to the Koyukuk in 1898, to Nome in 1899, to Fairbanks in 1902, and, for the next decade, to a host of lesser camps. As a truly equal-opportunity endeavor, gold mining probably reached its height in Nome, where gold lay only 1 foot to 4 feet below the beach sands. The gold was also easily separated from the sand by the simple technique of placing the sand in a rocker with water and rocking until the sand shook out and only the gold remained. A judge ruled that no claims could be staked on the beach. This opened the way for over 2,000 men and women to crowd together on Nome's beaches where they retrieved over $2 million in gold in a single year. 145

In most places, placer mining was more effective when undertaken with a team of two or three. Miners shoveled the gravel into a long sluice box and mixed it with water until the heavier gold separated out. To uncover old streambeds where gold-rich gravel was likely to be, miners used high-pressure water in a technique called hydraulic mining. An elevated water source fed into smaller and smaller hoses to produce the pressure. The need for water, however, prevented hydraulic mining in the winter. When the placer gold ran deep below ground, miners sank a shaft and hoisted the gravel to the surface. (When the underground diggings ran parallel to the ground's surface, they were called drifts, and the process, drift mining.) Permafrost both helped and hindered the operation. Because the ground was constantly frozen, the shafts needed little timber shoring; but to loosen the gravel, the ground had to be melted with steam points. Steam required boilers, brought in by sled in the winter, and vast quantities of wood to fire them.

Placer gold could be obtained through drift mining, a two-person procedure.

Population of Alaska 148
1880 33,426 32,996 430
1890 32,052 25,354 6,698
1900 63,592 29,542 34,050
1910 64,356 25,331 39,025
1920 55,036 26,558 28,478
1930 59,278 29,983 29,295
1940 72,524 32,458 40,066
1950 128,643 33,863 94,780
1960 226,167 43,081 183,086
1970 300,382 50,554 249,828
1980 401,851 64,103 337,748
1990 550,043 85,698 464,345

Although some placer mining sites were worked for several decades, most were quickly exhausted and the miners moved on, abandoning their log cabins. Where they had drift mined, they left behind a shaft as well as the underground workings, while hydraulic mining rearranged streambeds. Neither left the mark in the landscape that the later dredges would.

In contrast to these simple, individual gold-mining operations, the discovery of an exceptionally rich copper deposit in Alaska resulted in a large corporate undertaking. Located on the Kennicott River in the Wrangell Mountains, the copper required an extensive mining operation to extract it and a means of transporting it to market. The large capital investment that was required was provided by the Alaska Syndicate, formed by the Guggenheim and J. P. Morgan interests, who bought the claims and invested $25 million in the largest, most costly, and most complex mine in Alaska. At Kennecott (the mining operation went by a misspelling of the glacier and river), large, wood-framed, gable-roofed buildings sheltered the operation, which consisted of crushing the ore, separating out the copper, and processing lower-grade ore on site ( SC119, p. 148). 146

Alaska's rapid population growth, from less than 5,000 whites in 1890 to more than 30,000 in 1900, 147was only the first of many booms that Alaska would experience over the next century. The census figures reveal these surges. The new population demanded new public works. Coastal shipping was greatly aided by the construction of a dozen lighthouses between 1902 and 1906. They were the first built by the U.S. government in Alaska and maintained by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. 149Set on a rocky island, the lighthouse tower was often attached to the keeper's dwelling, sometimes rising out of the roof. The first was the lighthouse on Sentinel Island, constructed in 1902; it had a jerkin-head gable roof and a square tower on the center of its facade. Although most of the lighthouses were replaced with concrete, functional structures in the 1930s, the light at Eldred Rock maintains its original 1906 appearance: a two-story octagonal concrete-and-wood building with a tower rising from the peak of its roof ( SE015, p. 168).

The first lighthouse to help guide ships through the Southeast Passage was the one on Sentinel Island. Like most of the dozen lighthouses built at this time, the tower bearing the light was incorporated into the lightkeeper's dwelling.

Nenana was a construction camp built by the Alaska Engineering Commission. From right to left in this 1917 photograph are the general offices, bachelor quarters, mess house, hospital, and cottages. Only the latter remain.

Water was the most efficient transportation system both for traffic entering Alaska and for traffic within Alaska. Nearly all communities were located on the coast or on rivers. The first steamboat appeared on the Yukon River in 1869, and in 1898 and 1899, more than one hundred steamboats worked the Yukon. Besides bringing people and goods into the region, steamboats also facilitated contacts between the villages on the river, creating a linear community. In the winter, the smooth surface of iced-over rivers made the best trails. Dogs, harnessed together in a team to pull sleds of freight and mail along the frozen rivers, served as the most practical form of transportation for about six months of the year.

The construction of major public roads began in 1900 with the Trans-Alaska Military Road, more a trail than an actual road, from Fort Liscum near the port of Valdez to Fort Egbert near the border town of Eagle in the Interior. In 1905, a reapportionment of money from Alaskan business license fees resulted in the creation of the Alaska Road Commission, a three-man board under jurisdiction of the War Department, charged with constructing roads. 150By 1920, the board had constructed nearly 5,000 miles of unpaved roads and trails, over 1,000 of which were suitable for wagons. 151Most travel was by sled dogs or packhorses and took place in the winter.

To serve travelers, a number of roadhouses opened along the routes to provide meals and lodging. Privately constructed, roadhouses were located about 20 miles apart, a good day's haul by dog sled. Due to their remote locations, roadhouses were usually simply constructed of round logs, although larger than their single-family counterparts. When a party of New Yorkers tried to drive the Valdez-Fairbanks trail in 1910 and failed, they ended up hiking a portion of the trail. One of them described the accommodations:

The Alaskan road house is a distinct institution of pronounced characteristics. Downstairs: one living room containing a large drum stove and racks on the rafters above for the drying of wet garments, a miscellaneous assortment of home-made “easy” chairs; and sometimes a rocker or two; one card table, and a trough for two tin wash basins. These are the essentials. There are variations, the favorite being a small bar in one corner. The dining-room is usually lacking in superfluous embellishment, but contains in their sublimated form all the important elements, namely, tables and benches.

Upstairs are two divisions: one contains double tiers of wooden bunks well supplied with heavy woolen blankets; the other is more or less subdivided by low partitions, which may enclose spring mattressed cots. This is called “the ladies' half,” for women often travel the Valdez trail. Your male sourdough, as a rule, scorns the affectation of this superfluous privacy and ease, and foregathers with his fellows. The price for “a bed” is the same, and you will sleep in blankets in either case. 152

Often landmarks in the wilderness, roadhouses served an important social function, being a place to exchange information about people, gold, and trail conditions.

When the federal government began construction of the 470-mile Alaska Railroad in 1915, there were several privately constructed railroads already in existence. In 1898, construction began on the White Pass and Yukon, a 101-mile line (only 22 of which were in Alaska) that took gold seekers from Skagway to Whitehorse on the Yukon River, in Canada. The Copper River and Northwestern Railway, the Alaska Syndicate's 196-mile line from Cordova to the copper mines at Kennecott, was under construction from 1906 to 1911. The Alaska Northern led from Seward northward. Begun in 1902, it was foundering financially and had penetrated only 72 miles when the Alaska Railroad took it over. The Alaska Railroad also acquired a 45-mile narrow-gauge line in the Tanana Valley, serving the goldfields around Fairbanks. Another railroad, the Solomon and Council City, was constructed in the goldfields near Nome.

Running from Seward north to Fairbanks, the Alaska Railroad, completed in 1923, achieved its purpose of opening the territory for settlement. Besides construction of the line itself, the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC), the construction arm of the railroad, built temporary construction camps and laid out townsites. 153One of the more successful towns was Anchorage, which the AEC established as the northernmost port along the line. They laid out the town on an unrelieved grid plan, built housing for their employees, and sold lots to the public. The AEC's interest in Anchorage continued: it managed the city for the first five years, from 1915 to 1920, and moved its headquarters there in 1917. Up and down the line, the AEC built bungalows of various appealing designs for its managers, while construction camps were often log buildings. Section houses—permanent bunkhouses for maintenance crews along the lines—were of utilitarian design. Depots, on the other hand, were an advertisement for the railroad. In the Craftsman style, they were long, low hip-roofed structures, with overhanging eaves. In general, the AEC buildings reflected prevailing styles and methods of construction in the U.S. at the time.

The same pattern prevailed in much of the commercial and domestic architecture of Alaska, depending on the proximity of a sawmill. Where a sawmill operated, usually in established towns such as Juneau or in industrial boomtowns such as Kennecott, wood-frame construction covered with horizontal siding proliferated. Such houses were often in the form of Queen Anne cottages, sparsely ornamented. Because of heating costs the houses were small, and such forms as the bungalow or cottage were the most practical and comfortable. Often built without basements, these small wood-framed buildings were easily moved, responding to the mobile population and to the value of building materials. Frequent additions intensified the dynamic nature of the building. The interiors, filled with wallpaper, carpets, lamps, and furniture imported from the Lower 48, reflected popular trends and personal taste.

A remarkably well-documented example of the construction of a wood-framed cottage appears in the journal of Judge James Wickersham, kept when he built a house in Fairbanks in one week in 1904 ( IN010.1, p. 220). Wickersham designed the house himself and helped build it. His first task was to clear the site and build a fence; “the first picket fence in the Tanana Valley—real planed pickets and will paint them.” 154He started construction on 23 May, carrying the lumber from the sawmill on his back as “there is not yeta wagonin the Tanana country—except one made by nailing lumber together for wheels.” 155He hired a carpenter and laborers but found them expensive and so did much of the work himself. By 28 May he reported the house completed, except for doors and windows. On 11 June he drew a plan in his journal, which showed the T-shaped house, with two rooms, 14 feet by 16 feet and 12 feet by 14 feet. He commented: “Have been particular to make the house tight and warm. Have it beautifully papered. Have good carpet of Japanese matting.… Two very comfortable rooms and good spring bed.” Two years later, he expanded the house to six rooms.

Commercial buildings were also wood-framed, with the false fronts popular in American frontier towns. Skagway, an archetypal boomtown, grew from a homestead to a population of 8,000 within two years of the Klondike gold strike. Boardwalks lined the unpaved commercial streets. The grid plan of the town oriented lots toward the major streets; commercial buildings had expensive, and therefore narrow, frontages. Generally taller than they were wide, these commercial fronts were placed directly on the building line. False fronts rose above the gables, making the building appear more substantial and providing space for signs and advertising. Customers entered through a central, recessed doorway, or sometimes via a canted corner. Soon the transfer point of most transportation into the Klondike, Skagway's excellent access to Seattle markets encouraged importation of plate glass and pressed metal ornament to enrich the thriving commercial district. 156

By contrast, in remote areas, or in towns before the sawmills got there, log cabins were the rule. Although some log cabins were hardy, permanent structures, others, erected in haste, were meant only to serve for a winter or two. In 1914 Rev. Hudson Stuck described the fluidity of the population, one of the factors contributing to the impermanent nature of some log cabins.

The prospectors and miners, who constitute the bulk of the white population, are not often very long in one place. Many of them might rightly be classed as permanent, but very few as settled inhabitants. It is the commonest thing to meet men a thousand miles away from the place where one met them last. A new “strike” will draw men from every mining camp in Alaska. A big strike will shift the centre of gravity of the whole white population in a few months. Indeed, a certain restless belief in the superior opportunities of some other spot is one of the characteristics of the prospector. 157

For whatever its intended duration, the log cabin could be quickly erected by one or two men. In the Interior, where trees were smaller than in Southeast, the cabins tended to be of round logs and were thus unlike the hewn-log structures of the Russians. The corners were most frequently saddle notched. Foundations were dispensed with; sill logs were laid directly on the ground. Most commonly, a cabin had one room with a door in the gable end. The gable roof was formed of poles, running perpendicular to the ridgepole and purlins, on which were piled moss and earth for insulation. Sometimes settlers flattened fuel cans or butter tins to be used as roof shingles. One or two windows provided the only light; a sheet-metal stove, brought in by river, furnished heat. An arctic entry, or unheated vestibule, was often added to the entrance. Settlers might reuse planks from one building to the next, and stoves and stovepipes traveled with their owners to new cabins.

Fairbanks in the early twentieth century had a mix of log and frame buildings. The house in the center of the photograph is a hip-roof, wood-framed cottage, while left of it is a log cabin. The log building on the right is the George C. Thomas Library ( IN001.1).

One prospector described the process of constructing his cabin on Alder Creek, near Seventy Mile, in July 1910:

There we put up a tent, got a small sheet iron stove to cook on and started to build a cabin. Cut and hauled in the logs, gathered moss to chink and cover the roof after first splitting six to eight inch sticks with a whip-saw covering the rafter logs. Then shoveled a foot of dirt on top of that. We whip-sawed lumber for the floor and door, window frames were handmade during the winter and the glass put in them. Put a six inch ventilator in one end. Cabin, when finished, was 14 by 18 feet inside and very comfortable. 158

Another miner described the process of whipsawing the required timbers.

Now whip sawing lumber in the middle of summer is not what it is cracked up to be between the heat and mosquitoes and it does get hot in the Yukon Country in July and the mosquitoes it is terrible, especially when you happen to get a snarly twisty log and the timber on the banks of Forty Mile is unusually so, well Jack and Sid did the sawing and the language they used was equal to the greatest expert on profane words in the world. The boys would saw awhile, sit down and wipe the perspiration off their faces and the saw dust out of their eyes and when they would saw, they would have to use both hands and keep the saw straight on the lines and then a mosquito or several of them would find a tender place they would have to stop and knock that mosquito off. 159

Miners cut planks manually from logs by whipsawing, a two-person task.

The interior furnishings were handmade and basic, as a description of this cabin in Circle City in 1896 attested:

At the back—generally—were the bunks, usually two high, with poles for “springs,” with hemlock or spruce boughs on them on which were put the robes or blankets. This made a good bed until the boughs shed their needles when they were like so many sticks and far from comfortable until renewed; which they sometimes were and sometimes not! 160

Yet the cabins could be appealing and comfortable. Four years before building his house in Fairbanks, Judge Wickersham had built a log cabin in Eagle and described it in reassuring terms in a letter to his mother in 1900 ( IN042, p. 241):

Our new cabin in Eagle is 17 by 22 feet square, with a kitchen 10 by 17 feet and an outhouse at the kitchen door for wood, etc. It has a fine floor, and I am lining it with canvas and then putting on wall paper; it is first chinked with oakum and then with moss, and the roof is covered with sawed poles from the comb to the eaves; over the poles I put heavy oiled sail cloth, and over that a layer of three inches of dry moss, and then covered it all with four inches of sand. The house will be banked up high with dirt, and good storm doors made, plenty of wood will be piled inside—then let the storms blow as they will, we'll be warm and comfortable still. 161

Miners, particularly those who stayed in the country for a while, needed additional buildings to accommodate tasks other than prospecting. In the winter, trapping afforded a reasonable income; dog teams aided this endeavor but required doghouses. Dogs needed to be fed, and although salmon was readily available, it had to be caught during the runs in summer and preserved by drying or smoking, necessitating smokehouses. In order to store a year's supply of food out of the reach of dogs and wild animals, trappers built caches, or elevated storage sheds. Vegetables from greenhouses provided variety to the diet, and, of course, there were outhouses.

The first public and commercial buildings in remote areas tended to take the form and materials of the log cabins. The U.S. Commissioner's Court in Chisana, for instance, resembled any standard log cabin. Probably constructed in 1913–1914 during a gold stampede, the courthouse is a 15-foot-square, one-story cabin of round logs, with a gable roof and a shed-roofed addition ( SC121.1, p. 153). Roadhouses and store buildings outgrew houses, but they also used log construction. The two-story Northern Commercial Company Store in Wiseman, constructed about 1910, overshadowed the one-story cabins in the town ( IN052, p. 249). Corrugated, galvanized iron, easily transported into the Interior by river, was a convenient, cheap, and fireproof material. Mostly used on warehouses, it appeared in Circle and Eagle before 1900 and also covered a large addition, since demolished, to the store in Wiseman.

The influx of Americans into Alaska at the turn of the century resulted in new attention from Washington, D.C., and, eventually, self-government. A valueless homestead act, enacted in 1898, was replaced with an effective one in 1903. 162A criminal code was enacted in 1899 and a civil code in 1900. The latter provided for three judicial districts (one of which was established by Judge Wickersham in Eagle and then moved to Fairbanks in 1904) and also moved the seat of government from Sitka to the thriving gold-mining town of Juneau. In 1906, Alaska elected a delegate to Congress, and finally, in 1912, received full territorial status. 163

Reflecting this new federal attention, the Governor's Mansion, designed by Supervising Architect of the Treasury James Knox Taylor, was constructed in Juneau in 1912. This Colonial Revival building, domestic in style, originally had a small portico and steep gable dormers; it was considerably altered in 1936 ( SE016, p. 170).

The thousands of gold seekers pouring into Alaska also raised concerns about law and order. The army, which had left Alaska in 1877, returned, contributing not only a military presence but also mounting several exploratory expeditions and, by 1904, setting up a communications system that linked Alaska with the rest of the United States. The army established posts at Saint Michael on Norton Sound, Fort Egbert near Eagle, Fort Gibbon on the Yukon, Fort Davis near Nome, Fort Liscum near Valdez, and Fort Seward near Haines. Each of these posts had simple wood-framed buildings, notable for their large size and formal arrangement. The two- and three-story buildings, particularly the larger ones such as the barracks, were a stark contrast to the small one-room log cabins of the other Americans. In each post's careful arrangement around an open parade ground, the fort was a contrast to the towns that had a grid plan, if any, and no planned open space.

The order of Fort Seward in the foreground contrasts with the random development of Haines in this photograph by Winter and Pond.

From the First World War to Statehood

Although completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923 promised new economic growth, in fact the decade of the 1920s was not a prosperous one in Alaska. The white population had dropped from about 36,000 in 1910 to 28,000 in 1920, while the Native population stayed relatively constant, ranging between 25,000 and 30,000 from 1900 to 1930. Many whites, lured Outside during World War I, either to enter the army or to take high-paying industrial jobs, did not return to Alaska after the war. The prosperity in the rest of the United States was too promising. In fact, Alaska's economy did not pick up until the late 1930s, and then, during and after World War II, it experienced unprecedented growth.

After the First World War, there were no dramatic gold strikes attracting the individual prospector. Gold production continued, but as placer gold became more difficult to reach, gold mining required dredges and other equipment that demanded significant capital. By 1929, 71 percent of Alaska's placer gold was extracted by dredges—large, flat-roofed structures that floated in ponds they created by dredging. On board, gold was separated from gravel, which was then discarded. Mineral output declined steadily, from $23 million in 1920 to $10 million in 1933, the lowest yield since 1904. 164When Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the price of gold from $20.67 per ounce to $35 in 1934, gold production increased again. Annual production rose to nearly $24 million in the late 1930s. 165Copper production, which had soared during the First World War, dropped in the 1920s, and the mighty Kennecott Mines closed in 1938.

By 1940, forty-eight dredges operated around Alaska, compared with twenty-eight in 1930. 166On Coal Creek, a tributary of the Yukon River between Eagle and Circle named for its deposits of coal that were never profitably mined, individuals had been placer mining since the turn of the century. In 1934 the claims were consolidated and bought up by a company called Gold Placers Inc., the vice president of which was Ernest Patty, formerly the head of the University of Alaska mining school. Gold Placers' dredge could process low-content gravel profitably, but it transformed the Coal Creek valley, churning up 5 1/2 miles of the streambed. The men who worked the mine were housed in simple frame buildings ( IN050, p. 247). On a larger scale, the Fairbanks Exploration Company, organized in 1924, operated eight dredges in the Fairbanks area.

For years, Alaska's agricultural potential had been heralded and frequently discussed, but never realized. 167In the 1930s, however, Alaska farming made headlines. In 1935, 202 families were brought to Alaska through a resettlement project of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (soon to become the Works Progress Administration). The colonists, mostly farmers from the northern United States, received plots of land in the Matanuska Valley northeast of Anchorage, loans to pay for them, and aid in clearing the land and building their homes.

Houses were built according to one of five floor plans provided by government architect David R. Williams and constructed of either wood frame or logs sawn flat on three sides. Four of the plans were for one-and-a-half-story houses, with bedrooms in the half story; four of them had a combined living room and kitchen; and none had a separate dining room. The houses had side-gable roofs and were either L-shaped or had some element, such as a vestibule, projecting from the mass of the building. Owners could make minor variations. The barn designs were standard, a 32-foot-square gambrel-roofed structure, often constructed with logs on the lower portion and frame above. 168

Two hundred farms such as this were built in the 1930s in the Matanuska Valley through the sponsorship of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

The Matanuska colony received extensive publicity, both across the country and in Alaska. Although the project was not entirely successful—disgruntled colonists left because of bureaucratic inefficiencies—the attention it brought to Alaska was significant.

The airplane transformed transportation in Alaska. Anchorage built its first airport in 1923, 169and air mail service was inaugurated by Ben Eielson in 1924, with a flight from Fairbanks to McGrath. 170As air travel became increasingly common through the 1930s, remote villages were suddenly easily accessible. Roads continued to be improved. Settlements, previously oriented to waterways and railroad lines, developed at crossroads and along the highways.

Domestic architecture followed patterns established by the 1910s. Log cabins were constructed in remote areas. In the 1920s, when buildings were first constructed at the new Mount McKinley National Park (now Denali National Park), they were designed in the Rustic style, typical of U.S. park construction in the 1920s and 1930s. These log structures, designed to be compatible with the landscape, were also typical of contemporary construction in the Interior; here log cabins constituted a viable architecture, not a nostalgic reference to the past.

Alaskan cities increasingly resembled developed areas in the rest of the United States. Mostly conservative in their appropriation of popular styles, small wood-framed houses adapted Colonial Revival vocabularies, as the construction of symmetrical one- and one-and-a-half-story dwellings spread out from the town cores. Occasionally a gambrel roof hinted at Dutch Colonial influence, or a steep and swooping gabled entrance indicated Tudor Revival longings.

Commercial architecture began to lose its boomtown character as wooden structures were replaced by Moderne or Art Deco buildings. Concrete, which was mixed locally and fireproof, was particularly suited for these sleek styles. Some of the most flamboyant applications of the Art Deco were movie theaters erected by Cap Lathrop, who had a chain across the state. The Fourth Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, designed in 1941 but not completed until after the war, featured a concrete facade with a curving “4th Avenue” sign in Art Deco lettering and a highly polished interior with Alaskan murals ( SC004, p. 84). At its opening, the Daily Timescalled the theater “a landmark in the transition of Anchorage from a frontier community to a city of permanence.” 171

Taking advantage of Public Works Administration money available in the late 1930s, a number of combined post offices and courthouses were built around the territory. Executed in concrete, the style was generally Moderne: smooth, unornamented designs that featured a rectilinear flatness. Classical references were stylized, such as piers resembling columns or geometric grooves replacing capitals. The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Anchorage (Gilbert Stanley Underwood, 1939–1940) ( SC003, p. 84) is a two-story, twelve-bay rectangle punctuated at each end by a three-story, recessed block. The pier-and-spandrel design of the main block heightened the sleekness and spareness of the design. In Fairbanks, the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (George Ray, 1932–1933) was also concrete but in the Art Deco style, with extensive aluminum decoration ( IN002, p. 216).

The territorial government received its most important piece of architecture with the Federal and Territorial Building in Juneau (James A. Wetmore, 1929–1931) ( SE017, p. 172). The concrete structure was clad with stone and brick; the conservative design resembling a standard office building boasts a dazzling portico of large columns of Alaskan marble, and the lavish use of local marble continues in the lobby and hallways.

But by far the greatest impact of the federal government in this period was through its military presence. In the 1920s, the army had abandoned all of its posts in Alaska save one, Chilkoot Barracks (Fort Seward) near Haines. In 1939, perceiving a military threat from Japan, the government started construction of naval and air bases at Sitka and Kodiak, followed in 1940 by Ladd Field in Fairbanks and a naval base at Dutch Harbor, and in 1941 by Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Field in Anchorage. 172In the next four years, the government spent more than $1.25 billion on military construction projects in Alaska. 173

For the most part, the military used standard designs employed elsewhere in the United States. Office buildings were concrete, often in a Moderne or utilitarian style. Two of the most distinctive military building forms on the Alaskan landscape were housing for airplanes and people. Hangars, in requiring vast open plans, utilized various truss systems; several peacetime designs called for steel trusses. With material shortages during the war, however, bowstring timber truss systems were employed, such as those in the Birchwood and Kodiak, or T hangars, producing an arched roof. 174Arches were also used in housing, in the form of the familiar quonset hut. In Alaska, however, the popularity of the quonset hut was surpassed by that of the Pacific hut, which employed the same design but was constructed of wood. Easily obtainable from the Pacific Northwest, wood obviated the use of corrugated steel, a critical wartime material. 175

Besides massive construction projects, military activity had two other important effects in Alaska. One was the shift in population. Not only did military personnel inhabit the cities but the related construction work also attracted laborers from throughout the territory. Anchorage, which had a population of less than 4,000 in 1939, had 40,000 people by 1952. 176

Secondly, 300,000 military men were stationed in Alaska during the war, 177and many of them returned afterward. The major towns, which had grown from the military presence and spin-off development, attracted most of the postwar immigrants. After the war, Alaska's location continued to be strategic; the Cold War with the Soviet Union demanded a continued military presence. In 1960, nearly 33,000 servicemen lived in Alaska, constituting one-third of all employed workers. Including civilian workers, the number of military employees amounted to nearly half of the work force. 178With the need for the military firmly established by a growing cold war, the population booming, and new economic activity promised by discoveries of oil in Cook Inlet, Alaska was finally granted statehood in 1959.

From Statehood to the Present

Since statehood, Alaska has become identified in the public's mind with oil. The Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) discovered a huge oil field at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, bringing unprecedented wealth to the state. The oil boom has produced new construction, attracted thousands of people, defined land ownership through settlement of land claims, redistributed the population, and effectively brought parts of the state into the modern era.

The Prudhoe Bay oil field, the largest in North America, was estimated to have 9.6 billion barrels of oil and impressive quantities of natural gas. ARCO and BP Exploration have developed facilities at Prudhoe Bay and neighboring fields, with potential fields still to be developed. In 1977 the first oil flowed through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, connecting Prudhoe Bay to the rest of the world. Since 1979, Alaska has produced over 500 million barrels of oil annually. 179

The North Slope facilities required the development of new technologies and innovative strategies to cope with the terrain and climate. All of the wells, roads, and buildings are located on gravel pads, which serve as an insulating layer between the structures and the permafrost. The oil fields have self-contained operations centers, providing space for work, recreation, eating, and sleeping. The 100-foot-by-122-foot modular units, fabricated in the Lower 48, were barged to Prudhoe Bay, then “crawled,” or transported on tanklike tracks, for assembly on the site.

Oil production required an 800-mile pipeline to the ice-free port of Valdez. Construction began in 1974 and was completed in 1977 by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, a consortium of oil companies. The 4-foot-diameter pipeline runs underground for about half of its length and extends above ground where there is permafrost. 180Above ground, the pipeline is mounted on platforms 50 feet to 70 feet apart; supports have heat-disseminating refrigeration pipes. The pipeline is laid in a zigzag pattern to reduce stress during earthquakes and is occasionally elevated or buried to allow migrating animals to pass. 181The $8 billion Trans-Alaska Pipeline claims to be the largest private construction project in history ( SC101, p. 141). 182

The oil boom brought unprecedented growth of the major cities. After modest expansion in the 1960s, Anchorage burgeoned in population from 48,000 in 1970 to 174,000 in 1980. Half of the population of Alaska lives in the Anchorage area. In the same decade, Fairbanks grew from 15,000 to 23,000, and Juneau, from 6,000 to 20,000. 183Increasingly, the domestic architecture resembles that of the Lower 48, as prefabricated housing has become popular with Alaskans. War-surplus quonset and Pacific huts were readily adopted after the war, until an ordinance passed in Anchorage in 1969 limited the construction and repair of such housing and signaled the end of their acceptability. 184By 1955, there were twenty-five trailer courts in the city, and between 1960 and 1965, over 2,000 mobile homes were sold in Anchorage alone. 185With the encouragement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, manufactured housing (similar to mobile homes but built without wheels) was developed in 1969 to fill the need for inexpensive (and therefore mass-produced) housing. On average 24 feet by 42 feet or 44 feet, with three bedrooms, this type of housing was readily accepted throughout Alaska.

A devastating earthquake in 1964, centered near Prince William Sound, caused major destruction in the region. Valdez was completely destroyed, and survivors decided to move the town. More than 300 miles away, Kodiak was hit by a tidal wave and suffered significant damage. Much of downtown Anchorage was destroyed due to subsidence. Studies of surviving buildings, in areas where there was no subsidence, determined that tall, slender buildings, buildings with a high ratio of window to wall, and buildings with monolithic masonry finishes were most likely to be damaged. 186Anchorage has been rebuilt in a more modern idiom, with a handful of pre-statehood high-rise buildings now mingling with a large number of more recent skyscrapers, some found crowded together downtown, others on spacious, suburban parcels. Construction has sprawled outward as well as upward, however, as seen in shopping malls, which, particularly suited to an environmentally hostile climate, are located in and around the major cities. Although Anchorage and Fairbanks have been slow to adopt skywalks or underground connections—linkages that one might think natural in a northern climate—some have recently been built.

After World War II, private owners acquired quonset huts to ease the housing shortage. This one was photographed in Anchorage in 1956.

One state proposal that foundered was a new state capital. Juneau, accessible only by ship or airplane, is not centrally located. Voters approved a capital move initiative in 1974, and two years later they selected a site for the new government at Willow, located 35 miles north of Anchorage, for the new government center. The Capital Site Selection Committee, advised by architect Kevin Lynch, held a competition to design the new capital city. After preliminary screening, five firms were selected to develop presentations; their designs ranged from villages to megastructures. The winner, Bull Field Volkmann Stockwell, architects, and Sedway-Cooke, planners, both from San Francisco, presented a linear layout, with a strong downtown centered on a grand commons—a glass-enclosed landscaped area. The size of the city, intended to have a population of 37,000, was kept small to encourage pedestrian rather than motorized transportation. Arcades at street level attempted to appeal to pedestrians; private automobiles were to be prohibited from the main street. A very different approach was proposed by Lane-Knorr-Plunkett with EDAW, Inc., and William Pereira Associates. Their high-tech megastructure consisted of an intense urban core 1 mile in diameter. From it, four arms radiated, with housing and secondary shopping at the ends of the arms; between the arms was an in-town wilderness. The $4.4 billion price tag of the BFVS scheme frightened voters, however; and they have refused to approve a bond issue to finance the move. 187

Rich from oil revenues, the state government has spread that wealth around through its capital improvement fund. Communities across the state have received schools and firehouses, buildings not usually funded by state government. Through Percent for Art programs, these capital improvements projects are richly decorated with artwork. In 1975, the state enacted legislation requiring that one percent of construction costs of public buildings be allocated to artwork for that building (one half of one percent in the case of rural schools). In 1978, Anchorage also adopted a One Percent for Art program. Together, these programs have commissioned more than three hundred pieces of art, costing nearly $8 million. Alaskans profited handsomely from timely passage of the legislation that coincided with a boom in public construction.

Anchorage received four major public buildings in the 1980s: the Z. J. Loussac Public Library (designed by Environmental Concern, Inc.) ( SC025, p. 96), the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer) ( SC006, p. 85), the George M. Sullivan Sports Arena (Harold Wirum) ( SC022, p. 94), and the William A. Egan Civic and Convention Center (CCC/HOK) ( SC007, p. 87). In addition, the city funded a major expansion to the Anchorage Museum of History and Fine Arts (Mitchell/Giurgola) ( SC019, p. 92). These new buildings brought a maturity and sophistication to architecture that Anchorage had not seen before. Divergent in style, the buildings range from the ice-cold, glass-lobbied convention center, to the highly ornamented, textural performing arts center across the street, to the elegant and restrained buff-brick museum.

Several of these major buildings were designed by Outside architects in association with local firms, a situation annoying to local architects who believe that Alaskan architects are as capable as any. Because there is no architectural school in the state, all architects are educated Outside, although there is a special arctic-engineering requirement for state registration. The architectural profession has become established only since World War II, rising with the state's population. Although architects had appeared in such gold-rush towns as Skagway and Nome at the turn of the century, they apparently did not stay long. N. Lester Troast and William A. Manley, among others, practiced in Juneau in the 1930s, designing largely in the Colonial Revival style. After his move to Anchorage in 1937, however, Manley adopted the Moderne style, providing some of Anchorage's best examples, and later the International style.

Edwin B. Crittenden's career is emblematic of the rise of the postwar architectural profession. Crittenden came to Alaska in the Coast Guard during the war and returned afterward to work for the Territorial Housing Authority. In 1950, he started his own firm, which gained and lost partners until in the 1980s CCC Architects and Planners emerged as the largest architectural firm in the state. With a practice beginning with a log cabin visitor information center in Anchorage ( SC001, p. 83) and including schools, hospitals, churches, and libraries across the state, CCC was influential not only in the number and quality of buildings but also in the number of architects who apprenticed in the firm and went on to establish their own Alaskan practices. Hit by the dip in oil prices and subsequent economic recession in Alaska, CCC went out of business in 1986.

Another architectural firm that grew with the state was that founded by Linn A. Forrest in Juneau. Forrest, an aptly named architect with the U.S. Forest Service, worked on Rustic masterpieces such as Oregon's Timberline Lodge before coming to Alaska in the 1930s. As regional architect for the U.S. Forest Service, Forrest headed the totem pole reconstruction project, which also involved the reconstruction of three traditional plank houses in Southeast. In 1952 Forrest started his own firm and developed a wide-ranging practice throughout Alaska. Although Forrest died in 1987, his firm continues under the name of Minch Ritter Voelckers.

The federal government also constructed new buildings during the 1970s and 1980s, using both local and Outside architects. Federal housing programs have changed the face of rural villages, as manufactured houses bring an unfortunate uniformity to the architecture. The federal government has also built for itself, such as the Federal Building in Anchorage, designed in the 1970s by CCC/HOK in partnership with John Graham of Seattle. Although the building occupies two city blocks, its mass is broken, lessening the impact of its size. Entrance is at one corner, which is chopped off and set back; the central hallway runs diagonally through an atrium in the building ( SC018, p. 92).

Across the street from the Federal Building, the subterranean federal annex, with a park on its roof, reflects the energy-consciousness of the 1970s. With energy-efficient construction a national concern, it was natural that Alaskans examine energy use carefully. Some argued that the traditional log cabins were the most energy-efficient houses around, claiming that heat-retaining log walls have a higher R-value than most wood-framed and insulated walls. 188Most modern construction incorporates energy conservation measures—thicker insulation, vapor barriers, and triple-pane windows, for instance—not readily visible in the design.

The feverish construction pace of the previous two decades slowed in the late 1980s when oil prices dropped and the Prudhoe Bay field passed the halfway production point. The state's population decreased. While recent architecture is far more sophisticated than that built previously in Alaska, it has lost some of its distinctive character.

Progressive Alaskans may resent being associated with log cabins, but log cabins remain a clear expression of what is Alaskan. At the same time, the constructed landscape of the state includes many other building forms, such as Russian Orthodox churches, false-front boomtown commercial buildings, small bungalows and cottages, log roadhouses, and concrete Moderne public buildings. Whether using local materials to build immediate shelter or importing stylistic trends from the Lower 48, immigrant Alaskans demonstrate their ambiguous relationship with the frontier. Alaska's rich architectural imagery may be overshadowed by the dramatic natural beauty of the state, but it forms the substance of a tangible history of humans reckoning with nature.


In Alaska, the aboriginal peoples—Eskimos, Aleuts, Athapaskans, and Northwest Coast Indians—are generally referred to as Natives. The Northwest Coast Indians inhabiting Alaska are the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. The Haida and Tsimshian populations are small. Native, capitalized, refers to these people; lower-case nativemeans indigenous.

Christy G. Turner II, “Ancient Peoples of the North Pacific Rim,” in Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaskaed. William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988), 115.

William W. Fitzhugh, “Eskimos: Hunters of the Frozen Coasts,” in Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 43.

Wendell H. Oswalt, Alaskan Eskimos (San Francisco: Chandler Publishing, 1967), 85–115.

Oswalt, Alaskan Eskimos, 99–100.

Aron Crowell, “Dwellings, Settlements, and Domestic Life,” in Crossroads of the Continents, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 195.

Frederick Whymper, Travel and Adventure in the Territory of Alaska (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1869), 175.

Ernest S. Burch, Jr., “Kotzebue Sound Eskimos” in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 5, Arctic, ed. David Damas (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984), 307; Oswalt, Alaskan Eskimos, 94–95.

Oswalt, Alaskan Eskimos, 110–11; Crowell, “Dwellings, Settlements, and Domestic Life,” 198; James W. VanStone, “Mainland Southwest Alaska Eskimo,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:231.

Burch, “Kotzebue Sound Eskimos,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:307–8.

Oswalt, Alaskan Eskimos, 94–95.

Robert F. Spencer, The North Alaskan Eskimo: A Study in Ecology and Society (1959; reprint, Washington. D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1969), 47.

Whymper, Travel and Adventure, 165.

Robert F. Spencer, “North Alaska Coast Eskimo,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:328.

E. W. Nelson, Eskimo about Bering Sea, 244; Henry N. Michael, ed. Lieutenant Zagoskin's Travels in Russian America, 1842–1844, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press for Arctic Institute of North America, 1967), 115.

Riley D. Moore, “Social Life of the Eskimo of St. Lawrence Island,” American Anthropologist25 (1923): 346.

Moore, “Society Life of the Eskimo,” 346–48; E. W. Nelson, Eskimo about Bering Sea, 259–60; Charles C. Hughes, “Saint Lawrence Island Eskimos,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:271.

Timothy M. Sczawinski, “The Little Diomede Kugeri,” The Northern Engineer13 (Winter 1981): 22–23; Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, vol. 20 (1930; reprint New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970), 111–12; E. W. Nelson, Eskimo about Bering Sea, 256.

Curtis, North American Indian, 20: 99–100; E. W. Nelson, Eskimo about Bering Sea, 255; Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton, Native American Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 207.

Lydia T. Black and R. G. Liapunova, “Aleut: Islanders of the North Pacific,” 54; Crowell, “Dwellings, Settlements, and Domestic Life,” 199, both in Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell.

Fitzhugh, “Eskimos: Hunters of the Frozen Coasts,” ibid., 50.

Donald W. Clark, “Pacific Eskimo: Historical Ethnography,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:191.

Black and Liapunova, “Aleut,” in Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 54.

Cornelius Osgood, The Han Indians: A Compilation of Ethnographic and Historical Data on the Alaska-Yukon Boundary Area (New Haven: Yale University Department of Anthropology, 1971), 85.

Frederica de Laguna and Catharine McClellan, “Ahtna,” in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 6, Subarctic, ed. June Helm (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981), 645.

Osgood, Han Indians, 86–87, describes the structure as portable.

Robert A. McKennan, “Tanana,” in Handbook, ed. Helm, 6:571; VanStone, “Mainland Southwest Alaska Eskimo,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:66, identifies the structure as semipermanent.

A. McFadyen Clark, “Koyukon,” in Handbook, 6:596.

Osgood, Han Indians, 89.

McKennan, “Tanana,” in Handbook, ed. Helm, 6:571.

Frederica de Laguna, “Tlingit: People of the Wolf and Raven,” Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 59.

Crowell, “Dwellings, Settlements, and Domestic Life,” ibid., 205–6.

Descriptions based on: Louis Shotridge and Florence Shotridge, “Chilkat Dwelling House,” University of Pennsylvania Museum Journal4 (1913): 86–89; George T. Emmons, “The Whale House of the Chilkat,” Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History19 (1916): 18–24; Aurel Krause, The Tlingit Indians (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989), 86–87. The Shotridges and Emmons each describe a single house, which structurally appear to be identical; yet a few differences indicate that they are different dwellings. The dimensions vary (Emmons's is 49 feet 10 inches by 53 feet, while the Shotridges' dwelling appears to be more elongated), and the number of levels is different. Krause's description is more general.

Some front facades had vertical planks, others horizontal, others a combination; variations occurred within a single village. Joan Vastokas, “Architecture of the Northwest Coast Indians of America,” (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1966).

Bill Holm, “Art,” in Handbook, 7: 606–7; Emmons, “Whale House,” 18, 23–30.

Albert P. Niblack, The Coast Indians of Southern Alaska and Northern British Columbia (1888; reprint, New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970), 306.

Frederica de Laguna, Under Mount Saint Elias: The History and Culture of the Yakutat Tlingit (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972), 295–300; Niblack, Coast Indians, 305–7; Crowell, “Dwellings, Settlements, and Domestic Life,” in Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 206–7.

Shotridge, “Chilkat Dwelling House,” 94–98; de Laguna, Under Mount Saint Elias, 302–3.

de Laguna, Under Mount Saint Elias, 304.

Vastokas, “Architecture of the Northwest Coast Indians of America,” 33.

Surviving traditional dwellings—albeit exhibiting transitional features—include the John Iyapana Kugeri, Little Diomede Island (see WE003, p.266), and the Nanny Ooyatahna Sod House, Point Hope (see NO005, p.257). Reconstructions include Chief Shakes House in Wrangell (see SE060, p. 199), the Totem Bight Community House in Ketchikan (see SE073, p.205), and the community house in Kasaan (see SE064, p.201), all built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s. There have been a number of additional reconstructions since 1960.

Dorothy Jean Ray, The Eskimos of Bering Strait, 1650–1898 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975), 174.

Edwin S. Hall, “Interior North Alaskan Eskimo,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:344.

Richard K. Nelson, Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival among the Alaskan Kutchin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), 273–79.

Osgood, The Han Indians, 157.

Hudson Stuck, Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled (1914; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 70.

Nancy Yaw Davis, “Contemporary Pacific Eskimo,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:203.

Wallace M. Olson, “Minto, Alaska,” in Handbook, ed. Helm, 6:708.

Margaret Lantis, “Aleut,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:167.

P. A. Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian-American Company (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978; orig. pub. 1861), 1:471.

Black and Liapunova, “Aleut,” in Crossroads, ed. Fitzhugh and Crowell, 54.

Russell Sackett, The Chilkat Tlingit: A General Overview (Fairbanks: University of Alaska, Anthropology and Historic Preservation, Cooperative Park Studies Unit, 1979), 34–40.

Frederica de Laguna, The Story of a Tlingit Community: A Problem in the Relationship Between Archeological, Ethnological, and Historical Methods (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 172, 1960; Brighton, Mich.: Native American Book Publishers, 1980s), 189.

Dale C. Slaughter, “The Point Barrow Type House: An Analysis of Archeological Examples from Siraagruk and Other Sites in Northern Alaska,” Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska20 (1982): 157.

James W. VanStone, Point Hope, An Eskimo Community in Northwest Alaska (Fort Wainwright, Alaska: Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory, 1961), 60.

James W. VanStone, Eskimos of the Nushagak River: An Ethnographic History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1967), 130, 145.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, My Life with the Eskimos (1913; reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1951), 299.

Norman A. Chance, “Alaska Eskimo Modernization,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:646.

“Remote Housing Aided Many,” Building Alaska (published by the Alaska State Housing Authority) 3 (July 1967): 4; Paul L. Gagnon, “The Beaver Report” (Alaska Rural Development Board, 1959), 6, 29.

“Kotzebue and Mountain Village Selected for Experimental Houses,” Building Alaska (August 1968): 6.

Examples include the sod-covered dwelling in Kotzebue erected by the NANA museum (see WE002, p.266), the plank house at Saxman (see SE074, p.206), and the barabara in Akhiok.

Svetlana G. Fedorova, Ethnic Processes in Russian America (Anchorage: Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum, 1975), 8.

James R. Gibson, “Russian Expansion in Siberia and America: Critical Contrasts,” in Russia's American Colony, ed. S. Frederick Starr (Durham: Duke University Press, 1987), 34. The pre-contact population of Aleuts was estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000. Margaret Lantis, “Aleut,” in Handbook, ed. Damas, 5:163. In 1842, Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, estimated the Aleut population at barely one tenth of its pre-contact size. S. B. Okun, The Russian-American Company (1939; reprint, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), 193.

Svetlana Fedorova, The Russian Population in Alaska and California, Late 18th Century—1867, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1973), 217–18.

Arthur Voyce, “National Elements in Russian Architecture,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians16 (May 1957): 7.

Martin Sauer, An Account of a Geographical and Astronomical Expedition to the Northern Parts of Russia Performed by Commodore Joseph Billings in the Years 1785, etc. to 1794 (London, 1802), 40, cited in Anatole Senkevitch, Jr., “The Early Architecture and Settlements of Russian America,” Russia's American Colony, ed. Starr, 161.

Fedorova, Ethnic Processes, 10.

P. A. Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian American Company, vol. 2, Documents, trans. Dmitri Krenov, ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Kingston: Limestone Press, 1979), 11. Baidaras, called umiaks by the Eskimos, are small, skin-covered boats holding twenty to twenty-five people. Baidarkas, or kayaks, are similar but smaller, holding one, two, or three people.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 2:11.

Fedorova, Russian Population, 218.

Barbara Sweetland Smith, National Historic Landmark nomination: Russian-American Company Magazin (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1986).

Manuscript reproduced in Colin Bearne, trans., Richard A. Pierce, ed., The Russian Orthodox Religious Mission in America, 1794–1837, (Kingston, Ontario: Limestone Press, 1978), 117. Confirmed by Rezanov two years later in his report to the Company Board of Directors, 15 February 1806, Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 2:188.

Archimandrite Ioasaph to G. I. Shelikhov, Kodiak Island, 18 May 1795, Documents Relative to the History of Alaska (hereafter DRHA) 3:151.

P. A. Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian-American Company, trans. and ed. Richard A. Pierce and Alton S. Donnelly (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978; orig. pub. 1861–63), 1:87.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:87.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 2:188.

Ibid., 2:77.

Baranov referred to it as the “new church” in 1796, see Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:47.

Bishop Gregory, “The Orthodox Church in Alaska,” Orthodox Alaska5 (1975): 15.

Innokentii Veniaminov, “The Condition of the Orthodox Church in Russian America” (originally published 1840); trans. and ed. Robert Nichols and Robert Croskey, Pacific Northwest Quarterly63 (April 1972): 43–44.

Order, Lieutenant-General Ivan Peel to G. I. Shelikhov, Irkutsk, 12 May 1794, DRHA3:161.

Shelikhov to Baranov, Okhotsk, 9 August 1794, Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 2:54–7.

Cited in Fedorova, Russian Population, 216.

Okun, Russian-American Company, 33.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:33; Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Alaska, 1730–1885 (1886; reprint, New York: Antiquarian Press Ltd., 1960), 329–31; Timothy L. Dilliplane, “Industries in Russian America,” Russian America: The Forgotten Frontier, ed. Barbara Sweetland Smith and Redmond J. Barnett (Tacoma: Washington State Historical Society, 1990), 131.

Rezanov to Emperor, Unalaska, 18 July 1805, Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 2:149; 1:88. Another motive for the temporary halting of the fur seal harvest is given by historian S. B. Okun ( Russian-American Company, p. 61), who notes that the furs had flooded the market, driving the price down and that the company destroyed 700,000 skins to inflate the price.

Rezanov to Baranov, 20 July 1805, DRHA, 3:184.

Cited in Bancroft, Alaska, 1730–1885, 467.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:160.

Inventory of the Russian American Company, no date but probably 1815, DRHA3: 253.

Sokolov to Board of Directors, Sitka, 1 June 1817, DRHA, 4:129.

Fedorova, Russian Population, 222.

William H. Dall, Alaska and Its Resources (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1870), 8–9.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:174–75.

Okun, Russian-American Company, 85–86.

Creoles were of mixed blood, Russian and Native.

Whymper, Travel and Adventure, 153.

Michael, Zagoskin's Travels, 185.

Bishop Innokenty to Novo-Arkhangelsk Ecclesiastical Consistory, Novo-Arkhangelsk, 22 February 1849, DRHA, 1:374–75. Because Kvikhpak was no longer the site of a Russian-American Company post, the church had to finance construction itself.

Alaskan Russian Church Archives, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, microfilm reel 151.

Innokenti Veniaminov, “The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska” (originally published 1858), trans. Robert Croskey, Pacific Northwest Quarterly66 (January 1975): 27.

Cited in Michael Oleska, ed., Alaskan Missionary Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 246–248.

James R. Gibson, Imperial Russia in Frontier America: The Changing Geography of Supply of Russian America, 1784–1867 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976): 37–38.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:374.

Ibid. Pavel N. Golovin, The End of Russian America, (originally published 1982) trans. Basil Dmytryshyn and E. A. P. Crownhart-Vaughan (Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 1979), 49, also describes this sawmill.

Whymper, Travel and Adventure, 97.

Dall, Alaska and Its Resources, 255. Actually, the town was sixty years old.

Chistiakov to Stepan Iakovlevich [Nikiforov], 23 February 1827, Records of the Russian-American Company, Correspondence to the Governors General, Communications Sent, 5:44.

Tikhmenev, Russian-American Company, 1:200.

Ibid., 1:386, 411; DRHA, 2:4.

Golovin, Civil and Savage Encounters, 137–38.

Board of Directors to Administrator-General, Captain of the second rank Nicholas Yakovlevich Rosenberg, 31 August 1851, DRHA, 4:381–2.

Bishop Gregory, “The Church in Alaska after 200 Years,” Orthodox Alaska6 (July 1977): 10. The church moved its diocesan seat to San Francisco in 1870, after Alaska was sold to the United States. In 1905, responding to Eastern European immigration in the East, the administrative base of the church moved to New York. The Russian church continued to support its Alaska parishes, on a reduced level, until the Russian Revolution, when all support from Russia ceased. After some upheaval within the church, the American church's members formed two new churches; the Alaskan parishes are a part of the Orthodox Church in America. Barbara Sweetland Smith, Orthodoxy and Native Americans: The Alaskan Mission (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1980), 17–19; Basil M. Bensin, The Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, 1794–1967 (Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America, 1967), 3–4.

Fedorova, Ethnic Processes, 23. Russian “peasants' customs” and folklore are also mentioned in Helen A. Shenitz, “The Vestiges of Old Russia in Alaska,” Russian Review14 (January 1955): 55–59.

Wendell H. Oswalt, Napaskiak: An Alaskan Eskimo Community (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1963), 124.

In a study of five Aleut (Pacific Eskimo) villages after the 1964 earthquake, Nancy Yaw Davis found the concern for the church buildings and identification with the Russian Orthodox church to be a uniting and powerful force. Nancy Yaw Davis, “The Role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Five Pacific Eskimo Villages as Revealed by the Earthquake,” The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964: Human Ecology (Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1970), 125–46.

Voyce, “National Elements in Russian Architecture,” 11.

The origin of this form may relate to the Russian trapeznaya, or meeting room, which had been a separate structure, and was incorporated into the churches as a larger vestibule, or meeting place. The octagon shape did not adapt well to additions; occasionally the trapeznaya was wrapped around three sides of the nave. To accommodate additions, a square or rectangle was employed at ground level, rising to form an octagon. Alexander Opolovnikov and Yelena Opolovnikova, The Wooden Architecture of Russia: Houses, Fortifications, Churches (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989), 18.

Modern construction materials also include concrete, as in the reconstructed Saint Michael's Cathedral (1977).

Betty John, Libby: The Alaskan Diaries and Letters of Libby Beaman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 48.

While precise comparisons to Orthodox churches in Russia cannot be made, it is worth noting that Alaskan churches were probably far simpler. Elements identified with Russian wooden churches include multiple onion domes, clustered like an upside-down bunch of grapes; ornately shingled onion domes; highly decorated eaves and bargeboards; extended, carved brackets; and prominent exterior stairways. None of these is found in Alaskan churches.

U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Statistics, “Commercial Alaska in 1901,” in Summary of Commerce and Finance for May 1902 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902), 3949; Progress of Alaska Since Purchase: How Its Industries Began (Juneau: Alaska Bureau of Publicity, 1917), 6. The machinery at Sitka was moved to Cook Inlet after the 1879 season, and the cannery buildings were used in the construction of the first building at the Sitka Industrial Training School in 1882.

“Commercial Alaska in 1901,” 3945.

Ted C. Hinckley, The Americanization of Alaska, 1867–1897 (Palo Alto: Pacific Books, 1972), 189.

“Commercial Alaska in 1901,” 3944.

Alfred Hulse Brooks, Blazing Alaska's Trails (1953; Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 1973), 299.

Ibid., 304–5. David Stone and Brenda Stone, Hard Rock Gold: The Story of the Great Mines that were the Heartbeat of Juneau (Juneau: City and Borough of Juneau, Juneau Centennial Committee), 11, 24.

James Wickersham, Old Yukon: Tales—Trails—and Trials (Washington, D.C.: Washington Law Book Company, 1938), 122.

William R. Hunt, North of 53: The Wild Days of the Alaska-Yukon Mining Frontier, 1870–1914 (New York: MacMillan, 1974), 18.

Pierre Berton, The Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958), 33.

Wickersham, Old Yukon, 122.

Ibid., 46.

Neal A. Armstrong, “Sheldon Jackson Scenes: A Documentary History of Sheldon Jackson Junior College, Sitka, Alaska, 1878–1967” (M.A. thesis, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1967), 94.

Sheldon Jackson to Mrs. Sara T. Kinney, 5 August 1888, cited in Theodore Charles Hinckley, Jr., “The Alaskan Labors of Sheldon Jackson, 1877–1890” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1961), 175.

Ibid.; Alice Palmer Henderson, The Rainbow's End: Alaska (Chicago: Herbert S. Stone and Co., 1898), 219.

Armstrong, “Jackson Scenes,” 95, notes that the subdivision, called “Westminster Addition,” was designed by Presbyterian missionary Eugene Willard.

Report of the Governor of Alaska For the Fiscal Year 1886 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1886), 941.

Report of the Governor of Alaska for the Fiscal Year 1888 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1888), 32.

Report of the Governor of Alaska for the Fiscal Year 1902 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902), 23.

Peter Murray, The Devil and Mr. Duncan: A History of the Two Metlakatlas (Victoria, B.C.: Sono Nis Press, 1985); Phyllis Bowman, Metlakahtla—The Holy City! (privately printed, 1983).

Robert Laird Stewart, Sheldon Jackson (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1908), 363.

Brooks, Blazing Alaska's Trails, 493. Jackson somewhat neglected the education of whites; in 1890, there were only two schools for white children, at Sitka and at Juneau. Ten years later, legislation was enacted that enabled communities to set up their own public schools. Jackson's downfall concerned a rather odd project that he undertook as commissioner of education, to import domestic reindeer as an industry to feed Eskimos.

“Commercial Alaska in 1901,” 3985.

Berton, Klondike Fever, 417.

Hunt, North of 53, 99.

Robert L. S. Spude and Sandra McDermott Faulkner, comps., Kennecott, Alaska (Anchorage: National Park Service, Alaska Region, 1987), 3.

As far as is known, Native population stayed relatively constant, but statistics on Native population are not always reliable.

The sources for this data are Claus-M. Naske and Herman E. Slotnick, Alaska: A History of the 49th State (1979; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 301 and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Aids to Navigation in Alaska History (Alaska Division of Parks, 1974).

Claus-M. Naske, Paving Alaska's Trails: The Work of the Alaska Road Commission (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986), 15.

Naske and Slotnick, History of the 49th State, 90.

G. Marion Burton, “Automobiling on the Valdez Trail,” Collier's Outdoor America (16 July 1910): 21.

By early 1919, the AEC had built about four hundred buildings along the line, ninety-six of them in Anchorage. AEC Summary of Detailed Estimates, compiled by L. L. McPherson, Engineer, 31 March 1919, National Archives and Records Service, RG 126, Office of the Territories Classified Files 1907–1951, file 9–1–3.

James Wickersham, journal, 22 May 1904.

Wickersham journal, 24 May 1904.

Robert L. S. Spude, Skagway, District of Alaska, 1884–1912: Building the Gateway to the Klondike (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Cooperative Park Studies Unit, 1983), 47–65.

Stuck, Ten Thousand Miles with a Dog Sled: A Narrative of Winter Travel in Interior Alaska, 368–69.

C. A. (Bert) Bryant, “Another Man's Life,” (Alaska Historical Library, typescript, 1937), 163.

William D. Moore, “From Peru to Alaska” (University of Washington Manuscript Collection, typescript, [1923]), unpaginated, but describing events in 1889.

William Douglas Johns, “The Early Yukon, Alaska, and the Klondike Discovery As They Were Before the Great Klondike Stampede Swept Away the Old Conditions Forever by One Who Was There” (University of Washington Manuscript Collection, typescript, [1939]), 125.

James Wickersham to his mother, from Circle City, 25 August 1900, James Wickersham correspondence, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Archives.

A. W. Greeley, Handbook of Alaska: Its Resources, Products, and Attractions (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), 13. The first homestead act allowed entries only on surveyed lands—of which there were none in Alaska, and not even meridian lines or monuments from which to survey. Hinckley, Alaskan, 183.

Brooks, Blazing Alaska's Trails, 514–16.

Ernest Gruening, The State of Alaska (New York: Random House, 1954), 273, 277.

Orlando W. Miller, The Frontier in Alaska and the Matanuska Colony (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 200.

Gruening, Alaska, 298.

James R. Shortridge, “The Alaskan Agricultural Empire: An American Agrarian Vision, 1898–1929,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly69 (October 1978): 145–58.

Knik, Matanuska, Susitna: A Visual History of the Valleys (Matanuska-Susitna Borough, 1985, 1986), 170.

Gruening, Alaska, 291.

Clarence C. Hully, Alaska: Past and Present (Portland, Oreg.: Binsford and Mort), 316.

Cited in Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage's Historic Resources (Municipality of Anchorage, 1986), 95.

Naske and Slotnick, History of the 49th State, 122.

Hulley, Alaska: Past and Present, 335.

The “T” or Kodiak hangars could also be constructed with Howe trusses, and steel trusses could also be in a bowstring form. James D. Bush, Jr., “Narrative Report of Alaska Construction, 1941–1944” (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1944), 313–15.

Ibid., 278–79.

Hulley, Alaska: Past and Present, 361.

Gruening, Alaska, 316.

Miller, Matanuska Colony, 200.

The Alaska Almanac: Facts About Alaska—1990 Edition (Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1989), 145.

The Alaska Almanac, 148.

“The Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline: The Whole Story,” Alaska Construction and Oil, Special Pipeline Report (September 1975), 20.

Stan Cohen, The Great Alaska Pipeline (Missoula, Mont.: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1988), 133.

The Alaska Almanac, 150.

Martha Frey, “Nuts About Huts,” Anchorage Historic Properties News2 (Summer 1989):3.

What's Doing in Anchorage (Anchorage, 1955), 32; Stephen M. Dunn, “Prebuilts and Conventional Construction: A Comparative Analysis of Single-Family Residential Development in Alaskan Metropolitan Areas” (typescript, 1972), 33.

Lloyd E. Hixon, “How to Design Against Earthquakes,” AIA Journal (October 1965): 81–82.

“Two San Francisco firms win competition to design a new capital city for Alaska,” Architectural Record163 (February 1978): 40–41; “SF firms design Alaska capital building,” Progressive Architecture59 (March 1978): 40; “Alaskans to vote on plan for building capital city,” AIA Journal67 (June 1978): 72; David Littlejohn, “Dream Town in the Wilderness,” Atlantic Monthly (October 1978): 83–94.

Axel Carlson, “Why Build A Log House?” Alaska42 (August 1976): 16–18.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland

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