Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fort Ross

In which we go Ruski

Many Californians may not know it, but the Russian Empire of the Czars had a foothold in early California. In the time of Spanish, and later Mexican, rule the Russians – then in control of much of what is now the State of Alaska – had settlement in what is today Sonoma County, on the north coast about 60 miles North of San Francisco Bay.

We recently visited Fort Ross and other points north.

Krepost Ross was most active between 1812 and 1841. It was originally built to exploit the trade in otter pelts, but over-trapping brought the sea mammal to near extinction in just 20 years. The colony then set up shop growing food to export to Alaska. This enterprise did not last either and the colony was finally abandoned by the Russian-American Company and sold to California pioneer, John Sutter in 1849.
Although a Russian outpost, Fort Ross was quite cosomopilitan. The people who lived, worked and traded there came from all over – Russians (of course), Siberians, Chinese, American Indians, Spaniards and Mexicans.

Today, the partially restored Fort Ross is a California State Historic Park and an oddity among early 19th century imperial landmarks.

Part of the stockade and blockhouse

A corner blockhouse, a defensive position that dominates the surrounding countryside with canon

Inside the stockade, some canons of the type in use in the early 1800's

The armory

The Orthodox church

A detail of some of the woodwork in one of the fort's buildings

The St. Orrea Russian Hotel and Restaurant (up Highway 1 from the fort)


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