In the village of Karluk, on the Southwest corner of Kodiak Island, stands Ascension of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church. Built in 1888, it’s one of the oldest churches in Alaska and it is renowned for its beauty.
But it stands on the edge of disaster. Literally. The church was built on a cliff that has eroded to just a few feet away from the foundation. A few big storms, and one of the oldest sacred sites in Alaska could go hurtling into the sea below.
Dorothy Gray is chairperson of ROSSIA, which stands for Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska. And her organization has a plan to save the church.
ROSSIA has contracted with John’s General Contracting out of Wasilla to move the church. They’ll bring their equipment to the Homer dock and take the ferry to Kodiak. From there, they’ll hop on a barge and make their way down the long side of the island to eventually arrive in Karluk in early August.
“The moving company is very familiar with this type of operation. They’ve done this before. I don’t think they’ve ever done a church before. But it’s something that they know how to do. And we’re really excited about it, because it’s the oldest building in Alaska that’s on the National Historic Register to be moved away from eroding cliffs like this,” Gray said.
The project will occur in two phases. The first is to move the church wholesale up away from the cliff in the first week of August. The second is expected to occur next summer- the church will be shifted again even further away, near the Karluk airfield and will have a new permanent foundation built.