Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fort Ross

Fort Ross, California
We had a great visit to Fort Ross, a California State Park. It was a fantastic experience and this is a good time to visit as Fort Ross is celebrating it’s bicentennial.
Main Gate- Sally Port
In June 1812, a crew of 95 Russians and 40 Aleut Indians began to work on a stockaded redwood fort, built on an elevated coastal plateau. The Russians built a permanent trading base at Fort Ross and a harbor at Bodega Bay from which the needs in Alaska could be supplied.
North Blockhouse
The Fort was a Russian-American Company settlement from 1812 to 1841. This commercial company chartered by Russia's tsarist government controlled all Russian exploration. 
The Russians had nothing but problems at the Fort. Excessive hunting led to the virtual disappearance of the sea otter and other fur-bearing animals, except gophers. The Aleuts had their own village outside the walls. The most pressing problem for the Russians was that they couldn’t grow enough food to feed themselves and their Native American helpers. Life was difficult on the windswept Pacific bluffs above the cove.
Original 1836 Rotchev House
After 1845, the fort area became the center of a large ranch, and the remaining buildings were used in various ways. The Call family purchased the fort and ranch in 1874. After the collapse of the Chapel of Fort Ross in the 1906 earthquake, the site was purchased by the California Historical Landmarks Committee of San Francisco and presented to the State of California in the same year. Restored in 1955-57, the stockade is built of hewn redwood timbers eight inches thick and 12 feet high. 
The Russian Orthodox Chapel, built about 1828, was reassembled about 1917, but extensive termite damage and the effects of the weather made it necessary to do considerable repairing of the building in 1955--57. There are two blockhouses, a seven sided one at the north comer and an eight sided one at the south. Cannon ports on each of the walls of the two stories of each blockhouse could cover the walls of the fort and the landing on the beach below. Both buildings have been restored.
Fort Ross Chapel
The name Ross is shortened from the word Rossia, which is the old name for Russia. Some say that it’s from Rus but who knows. It’s interesting that most California State Parks have signs in English and Spanish. At Fort Ross, they are in both English and Russian. We met some Russians there from Moscow who said they really enjoyed the old fort and it’s russian history.
Along with the chapel, the structure of most historical interest at Fort Ross is the Rotchev house, an existing building renovated about 1836 for Alexander Rotchev, the last manager of Fort Ross. It’s the only surviving original structure. Fort Ross was outfitted for war and it’s 41 cannons are thought to have been the cause for the Spanish to construct the San Francisco Presidio.
Fort Ross Cove
Fort Ross brings history to life. It's a peaceful place on a bluff above the Pacific.
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