Urgent Need: Relocation of Ascension of Our Lord Chapel in Karluk, Alaska
The Ascension of Our Lord Chapel located at Karluk, Alaska (Kodiak) is in danger of being lost entirely due to the Karluk River undercutting the bluff where the historic church is located. Currently, the chapel is estimated to be only 25 feet or less from the edge.
ROSSIA is working tirelessly to mitigate the drastic erosion at the church which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest extant church in Alaska, dating to 1888. We are working with others to move the building away from the bluff as soon as possible. Given the rapidly changing environment surrounding the church, there is no time to apply for a grant to move the building, and it is too late to shore up the bluff to prevent further erosion. Moving the church – soon – is the only way to protect this landmark from being lost forever.
In April 2020, The Alaska Association for Historic Preservation generously offered to put $1,000 toward the travel for a contractor – or contractors – to fly to Karluk and assess the situation. Given that the contractors will need to charter a private plane to reach the chapel’s remote location, ROSSIA is asking for donations to help round out the anticipated travel costs for this first phase of the chapel rescue effort.
Can You Help?
If you would be interested in contributing to the costs of moving the church, it would be appreciated. With the help of preservation-minded individuals and organizations in Alaska and around the country, we hope to move quickly enough to rescue the church before it falls off the edge.
Donate to relocate Ascension of Our Lord Chapel before it’s too late
*Be sure to note in your donation that you want to fund the Ascension of Our Lord Chapel project
The Ascension of Our Lord Chapel was constructed in 1888 and is believed to be the second Orthodox church in Karluk; the first was constructed before 1800. Architectural Historian, Alison Hoagland, in her book, Buildings of Alaska, notes that this church “is the oldest extant Russian Orthodox church in Alaska, as well as being one of the most professionally designed.” The design is attributed to Charles Smith Hursh while the materials were purchased by the Alaska Packers Company or the Karluk Packing Company at the request of a local Native named Melety who would rather have a church than the new housing his company was building. The prosperous runs of salmon in the Karluk River brought many canneries to the area in the early 1880s and with it, a larger population.
The Ascension of Our Lord Chapel contributes to the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Russian Orthodox Church Buildings and Sites for its significant association with the Russian occupation of Alaska.
Architecturally, the church is beautifully designed with a prominent bell tower and an octagonal cupola. Research indicates that the structural components of the church are log, which were covered with horizontal wood siding. The remarkable site, high on Kodiak Island’s bluffs overlooking the Shelikov Strait and the Village of Karluk below, contributes to the beauty of this iconic Alaskan Orthodox church.