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THE KUSKOV HOUSE

The old house for the commandant, two stories, built of beams, 8 toises [sazhens [1]] long by 6 wide, covered with double planking. There are 6 rooms and a kitchen. Inventory for Mr. Sutter, 1841.

This building served as headquarters for the first manager, Ivan Kuskov, and as a storeroom for arms and other valuables. It must have been one of the first of the Russian buildings to be lost; there are no pictures or reports of it from the following ranching years. Archaeological investigations found a line of postholes to aid its reconstruction. The substantial building was carefully designed based on the 1817 stockade layout, visitors’ descriptions, and on other Russian American buildings of similar use. It stands in its original location, built by 20th century craftsmen using old joinery techniques.

“In one corner of the commandant’s living room there was on a canvas two feet high a painting of St. Peter and St. Paul and another very small one below it of St. Nicholas. Writings of Mariano Payeras, 1822.

The first room we entered was the armory, containing many muskets, ranged in neat order; hence we passed into the chief room of the house, which is used as a dining room & in which all business is transacted. It was comfortably, though not elegantly furnished, and the walls were adorned with engravings of Nicholas I, Duke Constantine, &c... An (anonymous) Bostonian’s description, 1832.

The replica Kuskov House was completed in 1983. It has a furnished armory and storerooms on the ground floor, and a trade room and attached living quarters upstairs. From the second floor “dining room,” one can see the sea, and any approaching ships through the old-style hand-made glass. It is now the most spacious room in the fort, and worth a climb up the stairs, over which heavy doors were installed in the reconstruction.

Also upstairs is a small room on the northeast corner designed as a scientific study. The Russian naturalist Ilya G. Voznesenskii spent part of 1841 at the fort, collecting and sketching; the lab is arranged as he might have used it. Several local plants and animals are named for Voznesenskii, and his watercolor of Fort Ross is one of the most accurate and valuable visual representations of the settlement.

[1] A sazhen (Russian) is seven feet or 2 1/3 yards. In the French version of the Inventory for Mr. Sutter the term is toise, in the Spanish, braza, each meaning fathom. The correct translation is the seven foot Russian fathom, called a sazhen.(Glenn J. Farris)