Points of Interest in the Borough of Sitka
The crowded conditions...in the orphanage and... in the orphanage quarters, also the lack of [a] convenient building for the kindergarten classes and for the girls who attended school, force me, Your Holiness, to request funds to erect the necessary school building... Father Anatoli Kamenskii, 23 July 1897
The "Old School" was built in the late summer 1897, during the tenure of the Russian Priest Anatoli Kamenskii. The structure was raised in a matter of weeks at a cost of $700.00.
Only the white children of Sitka attended. Early twentieth century church correspondence stated that a separate building served as a school for Natives.
By 1908, eleven years after its hasty construction, the building had fallen into a poor state of repair. Renovations totaled $300.00, nearly half the cost of the original.
It will not be possible to to open the school this coming month of September because the floor is fallen through in the classrooms and the windows and doors do not serve their purpose anymore, nor does the fireplace. Bishop-Vicar Pustynskii, 23 May 1908
In 1922, the building was rented to the Sitka Education Bureau for two years at ten dollars per month. Mrs. Mamie Lou H. Goddar, a teacher at the school recalled:
The downstairs housed the library; the upstairs housed the 3rd and 4th grades... In the downstairs I had my classrooms which included all Jr.Hi and Hi students of whom there were about ten... There was one large undivided room on each floor... As to the paint the building always looked a dingy gray...
During World War II, the Russian Orthodox Church had little funds for school upkeep, and the building degraded to a tenement. In the following decades, the structure served as the Sitka City Library and as a meeting place for the Sitka Historical Society.
In 1999, the Old School was rehabilitated by the National Park Service. Today, the building serves two purposes: it acts as a visual buffer between the Bishop's House and adjacent modern development, and provides office space for park staff.
Source: Interpretive placard at the site.