When we think of ‘colonial history’ in the United States, we often think of places like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, or east coast cities like Boston and Williamsburg. It’s easy to forget that United States history includes more than just English colonialism. Sitka was, for a time, the ‘capital’ of Russian America. The headquarters of the Russian American Company was located here from 1808 to 1867, making Sitka the center of business for Russian Alaska, and in the 1840’s when the Alaskan Diocese was created, Sitka was the spiritual center of Russian Alaska as well. We still see that history around town today.
The places we’ll be visiting on our tour today: the Russian Bishop’s House, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Building 29, the blockhouse and Castle Hill, are all heirlooms that have been passed down to us over the years. Much like family heirlooms, their exact use and purpose may have changed over the years, but the spirit of it remains, as more stories and memories become attached to it. In Sitka, we’re lucky to have these historic heirlooms still a present and active part of the community.
Our first stop on the tour begins at the Russian Bishop’s House.