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  • Reconstructed Blockhouse

    The wooden structure atop the hill is a reconstruction of what was once one of three wooden blockhouses that served as guard towers built into a long wooden palisade wall that stretched from the shoreline near today’s Katlian Street, all the way to Swan Lake. Russian Sitka was on one side of the wall, Tlingit Sitka was on the other. These blockhouses were occupied day and night by men armed with guns and loaded cannons.


    Russian American Company ships first sailed into Sitka Sound in 1799. Alexander Baranof, the manager of the company at the time, saw great business potential in setting up company headquarters in Sitka Sound, with its protected harbor, abundant game, and easy access to Pacific trade routes. Unfortunately for Baranof, Sitka was already occupied, and had been continuously for 10,000 years. After the Kiks.ádi clan destroyed the first Russian trading post in Sitka Sound in 1802, Baranof returned to Sitka in 1804 with the intention of regaining Sitka and making a permanent Russian presence there. The Battle of Sitka in 1804 was the last major armed engagement between the Russians and the Tlingit, and out of which Baranof finally got his foot firmly planted in Sitka. The Russian victory did not mean the end of the Tlingit in Sitka, but it did bring drastic changes, like the palisade wall and blockhouses that then divided Sitka.


    A wall separating people is not always the best way to find peace or reconciliation. Sights and sounds that may have been considered celebratory, or even just commonplace by one group, such as sounds of drums and song, could be misunderstood and interpreted as strange at best, threatening at worst. Later managers of the company sought cooperation between the two groups by opening up a small market near the waterfront, and building the Holy Trinity Chapel within the wall itself - open to both Russians and Tlingit. These opportunities benefited the entire community; by the time of the transfer to United States governance in 1867, the wall was crumbling in disrepair. This reconstructed blockhouse stands as a reminder of the mistrust and hardships caused by exclusion in Sitka’s past.


    The final stop will be at the top of Castle Hill. Retrace your steps back down the hill to Lincoln Street and take a right. To take the ramp up to the top of Castle Hill, cross Lincoln Street at the first crosswalk and take the path back to the large parking lot. Follow the sidewalk around to the right - the start of the ramp is near the parking lot exit onto Harbor Drive. To take the stairs to the top of Castle Hill, after turning right onto Lincoln Street, keep walking towards the water, cross over Katlian Street, then take the cross walk left across Lincoln Street. The stairs leading to the top are located immediately before the two-story city building.