Roof repairs first big step in overhaul of state’s oldest building

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Construction plans for the state’s oldest building are moving along, and it’s the first step in a bigger plan to preserve a piece of history on Kodiak Island.

Members of Kodiak’s Historic Preservation Commission unanimously approved a service agreement for a new roof design for the Russian-American Magazin at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28. It now goes to Kodiak’s City Council for review and a vote.

The city-owned-building is more than 200-years-old and now houses the Kodiak History Museum, right outside Kodiak’s downtown core. 

The Russian-American Magazin now houses the Kodiak History Museum, and is the state’s oldest building. (Photo: Kodiak History Museum)

“It’s a $20,000 collective cost; $10,000 would be needed from the city, $10,000 is being contributed by the State Historic Preservation Office, and this is the last remaining piece in order to get those designs moving forward,” said Sarah Harrington, the executive director of the Kodiak History Museum, at Tuesday’s meeting.

Harrington recommended that Colorado-based Andersen Hallas Architects complete the design for the project; the firm also provided a survey on the building’s overall maintenance needs last March. The National Park Service is footing the bill for a site visit from an architect with Andersen Hallas this month, and will provide additional funding for the overall project.

The survey also found leaks and areas of rot in the building’s roof. The service agreement approved by the commission encompasses only the initial plans and drawings for the roof’s replacement. Harrington says the design will be more comprehensive than just replacing the existing cedar shingles, which was also the material used when the building was first constructed.

“They’re going to make some stability and safety improvements to the roof design itself, including, which is the priority from our view as tenants in the building, returning a slight pitch to the porch area,” Harrington said.

The porch has a flat roof, and the space is unusable because of leaks. 

There currently is no estimate for how much the overall roof replacement project will cost; Harrington said they anticipate design plans for the roof would be complete by September.

The roof is one of many structural issues with the building. The survey completed last year also found other areas of rot, leaking windows, and old pipes, among other problems.

The Magazin was built in the early 1800s and is a National Historic Landmark. It was one of the few buildings in Kodiak still standing after the 1912 Novarupta volcanic eruption, and the earthquake and tsunami that hit Alaska in 1964. 

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