Enfilade

Fort Ross in the News

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on April 22, 2022

Orthodox Holy Trinity St. Nicholas Chapel at Fort Ross State Historic Park, Sonoma County, California. Occupying historic lands of the Kashaya Pomo tribe, the site’s first chapel, built in the mid-1820s, was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. In 1970, a reconstructed version burned. Shown here is the latest chapel, built in 1973, which continues to be used for Orthodox worship services. (Photo by Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons, December 2016). For how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dividing leaders of the Russian Orthodox church, see Jeanne Whalen’s recent reporting for The Washington Post.

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From The Washington Post:

Jason Vest, “‘Russia’s Jamestown in America’—and the Oligarch Who Has Helped Fund It,” The Washington Post Magazine (12 April 2022).

Since Vladimir Putin loosed Russian troops on Ukraine, there hasn’t been much pity for Russian oligarchs, who have seen their funds seized with alacrity. But there exists in America, thanks in part to a now-sanctioned Putin-allied billionaire, the most genuinely Russian landmark in the Lower 48. It’s called Fort Ross—or Fort Russ, as the Russians called it, way back in 1812, when it was founded. Today it’s a California state park and on the National Register of Historic Places. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from high, craggy cliffs, the nigh-forgotten outpost—a challenging two-hour drive north from San Francisco—has lately garnered more attention than usual as something of a historic curiosity. . . .

Established in 1909 as one of the first entries into the California State Park system, today Fort Ross scrapes by with a staff of 11 and a budget of about $500,000. It is, in tandem with nearby Gerstle Cove in Salt Point State Park, long a favored family or school field-trip destination for Northern Californians. . . .

Sarah Sweedler, chief executive of the Fort Ross Conservancy notes at the end of the article:

“We have gotten a few weird emails,” she says. “But we’ve also gotten some supportive emails. Hopefully common sense will prevail. . . . Fort Ross is a rich story that goes way beyond the Russians. It’s a part of California history that’s ours—everyone’s.”

From Wikipedia:

Fort Ross is a former Russian establishment on the west coast of North America in what is now Sonoma County, California. It was the hub of the southernmost Russian settlements in North America from 1812 to 1841. Notably, it was the first multi-ethnic community in northern California, with a combination of Native Californians, Native Alaskans, and Russians. It has been the subject of archaeological investigation and is a California Historical Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. . . .

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