Walking Tour Gives a Glimpse of Historic Kodiak

The Kodiak pier, the earliest known photograph of Kodiak, c. 1860. Courtesy of the Baranov Museum

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

This year is the 150th anniversary of the sale of the Alaskan territory to the United States. Alaska’s oldest standing structure, the Baranov Museum, recently hosted a traveling exhibit featuring panels from the time of the Treaty of Cession in the 1860s.

While the exhibit has since left the island, the Baranov also received a state grant to put together a walking tour of Kodiak’s historic sites.

KMXT went down to the museum to meet with executive director Sarah Harrington.


Harrington walks down the Baranov Museum steps. A blue stencil on the pavement marks each historic location.

“So, we’ve arrived at the next stencil which is just in front of the Baranov museum, which looks out over the pier.”

She says a wooden staircase would have led down to a pier of the same material. In the walking tour’s booklet, two pictures show a dock and nearby structures.

Overall, the guide covers ten different locations. Out of all of them, the Baranov Museum is the oldest.

Harrington says part of the reason the museum, the Russian-American Magazin, remains so sturdy is that it’s partly formed from another building which the Russians built.

“They cut down the trees, they stripped all the bark and limbs off … and erected this building, and so the wood had time to cure in its other location, so when they moved, they disassembled that building and moved it over to here, they were working with cured wood.”

She says that wood was especially strong.

And she says when the structure was built, in 1808, there were no spruce trees in the location, so they had to transport the wood for construction.

Harrington says the building was originally a storage house for sea otter pelts and one pelt could have cost a man his annual income.

The booklet provides context for this location and others around Kodiak, as well as historic photos of what the city once looked like.

Harrington says the museum received $10,000 dollars for the booklet’s research, design, publication, and for the pavement stenciling.

She says the museum also received a $3,000 grant from nonprofit Healthy Tomorrows to hold a fun run in late summer or early fall. She says that will encourage more people to come out and explore the notable places downtown.

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