Last updated: October 28, 2021
The Russian-American Co. in Alaska
The Russian-American Co. Magazin National Historic Landmark is the only surviving structure known to have been associated with both the Russian-American Co. (1799) and the Alaska Commercial Company (1868). Both trading companies were controlling factors in the Russian and early American administration of Alaska. Constructed sometime between 1804 and 1808, it is the oldest of only four Russian structures standing in the United States.
The Magazin (or storehouse) was built of traditional Russian horizontal log construction. Dovetailed at the corners, the 12” wide fir logs were rough hewn, grooved on the bottom to fit over the log below, and chinked with moss. The one-and-a-half story building was originally topped with a tall hipped roof. The first floor of the Magazin originally consisted of two large, unequally-sized rooms, separated by a 9” wide log partition, with no interior passage. These rooms served as a store and warehouse for furs collected by the Russian-American Company, primarily seal and sea otter, but also beaver, fox, bear, lynx, sable, mink and wolverine. The second floor of the magazine was most likely used for residential purposes.
The Magazin underwent a number of alterations over the course of the nineteenth century. At an early date the exterior was sheathed with vertical siding, using redwood from Russian holdings in California. At about the time of the American purchase of Alaska, the hipped roof was replaced by a steep gable roof, with a prominent front gable installed shortly after. The building’s front porch was probably also constructed at that time. Horizontal siding was installed on the building in 1883. By 1898, a small projecting bay had been inserted in the southwest end of the building. Two openings were inserted in the first floor interior dividing wall at an unknown date.
The Kodiak History Museum on Kodiak Island
In 1911, the Magazin was sold by the Alaska Commercial Company to one of its employees, Wilbur J. Erskine, who resided in the building until his death in 1948. In 1964, following the extensive damage to Kodiak from the Good Friday earthquake and tsunami, the building was acquired by the Alaska Housing Authority. In 1967, the Kodiak Historical Society leased the building for use as a museum. Purchased by the City of Kodiak in 1972, the Magazin continues to operate as the Kodiak History Museum.