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Angoon

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Across the Chatham Strait, on the west shore of Admiralty Island, the Tlingit community of Angoon retains a mix of buildings that demonstrates its architectural growth. It was originally a community of traditional plank houses, facing the beach, but the settlement was shelled by the U.S. Navy after a misunderstanding in 1882. The clan houses that were built to replace those that were destroyed still line the beach today. Constructed in part by a nearby whaling company, the houses are gable fronted like the plank houses, but wood frame with horizontal siding, featuring windows and doors. Interrupting this purely American architecture, however, are hints of lingering traditional ways. Some of the houses were one open room, maintaining the plan of the plank houses, if not the structure. In addition, paintings on the fronts of the houses continue a long tradition, as do the gable fronts, the small platforms at the entrance, and the orientation toward the water.

In 1917, a community hall—a plain, warehouselike building on pilings—was constructed. With the founding of a local chapter of the Alaska Native Brotherhood in 1921, it became the ANB Hall. It is now the City Hall and has new siding on three sides. In 1918, a Presbyterian church was constructed. In 1928, after the nearby village of Killisnoo burned, many of the survivors moved to Angoon, bringing their Russian Orthodox religion with them. Recent houses have been constructed on the bluff, and the older houses along the shoreline have received new sidings and additions, but Angoon's architectural heritage is still apparent in the gable-fronted houses lining the shore.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Alison K. Hoagland

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