Last updated: April 20, 2022
Baranof Castle State Historic Site ("Castle Hill") is the center of Tlingit, Russian and United States history in the area. Commonly referred to as Castle Hill, this park is one of the most historically significant sites in Alaska. Tlingit natives originally inhabited this area and built a strategic fortification (Noow Tlein) at this site.Between 1804-1867 Russians occupied this site, as the capital building of Russian American and center of business for the Russian American Company.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the area, Castle Hill was occupied by families of the Kiksadi clan of Tlingits. Alexander Baranov, a leading figure in the Russian-American Company, arrived in the Sitka area in 1795, and sought to establish a trading post on the hill. He ended up establishing Redoubt St. Archangel Michael several miles away in 1799; this trading post was destroyed by the Tlingit in 1802. Baranov returned to Sitka in force in 1804. After the six-day Battle of Sitka, Russians seized control of Castle Hill, destroyed the Tlingit houses and immediately began to build their own settlement. The Tlingit formally ceded Castle Hill to the Russians in 1805.
In 1806 the Russians transferred the headquarters of the Russian-American Company and the seat of government of Russian Alaska from Kodiak to Sitka, and Castle Hill was the focal point of the company and government facilities until 1867. They built a succession of structures on the hill's summit. The last of these, a two-story brick building with a cupola on top known as the Governor's House, was built in 1836 and was destroyed by fire in 1894.
In 1867, after the Alaska Purchase was negotiated, Russian Alaska was formally transferred to the United States in a ceremony held on Castle Hill. The Russian-built Governor's House was occupied by United States Army commanders until 1877 and remained a center of US government administration until the building burned. In 1898 the hill was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture, which built a structure on the hill which served as its Alaska headquarters until 1932. This building was then used for a variety of commercial purposes before it was demolished in 1955. The site was then designated a territorial park.
When Alaska was admitted as the 49th U.S. state in 1959, Castle Hill was the location where the first 49-star U.S. flag in Alaska was raised, though the ceremony was unofficial and secret. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1966. In 1965 a stone parapet was constructed on the hill, and interpretive plaques were added to a display of six cannons and a flagpole. The property is now administered as part of the Alaska state park system.