Sitka National Historical Park has the distinction of being the oldest federally designated park in Alaska. It was designated as a park by President Benjamin Harrison on June 21, 1890. The park has been known officially by several different names, including Sitka Park, Government Park, Indian River Park, Sitka National Monument, and Sitka National Historical Park. It is just as often referred to by its unofficial names, Lovers' Lane or Totem Park.
The park followed a somewhat unusual path to its designation as a national park unit. By the late 1800s, the mouth of the Indian River already had a long history as a cherished but informally maintained community park. The importance of the park to the community was not overlooked by a panel of three local commissioners appointed to identify lands that should be set aside for public use. In 1890, along with more utilitarian lands reserved for military, transportation, school, and government use, the commissioners recommended that Sitka's favorite recreation spot be set aside as a federal public park. President Benjamin Harrison approved the recommendation by proclamation later that year.
Shortly after 1900, a group of influential Sitkans concerned about vandalism and the overall lack of care for the park started a movement to have it declared a national monument. The campaign was successful, and the designation was approved on March 23, 1910. The map on the right accompanied the 1910 Presidential proclamation setting aside Indian River Park as a national monument. Along with its new status, the monument acquired a formal statement recognizing the park's historical past. The proclamation cited the need to commemorate and preserve the site of the Russian-Tlingit battle of 1804, along with a newly installed collection of historic totem poles. With the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, the monument was brought under the new agency's care, but no significant appropriation was made until 1921.