SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

AAHP “Most Endangered” Listing Helps Leverage Funding for Saxman Projects


October 27, 2011
Thursday AM

(SitNews) Saxman, Alaska - Located in Southeast Alaska 2.5 road miles south of Ketchikan, the City of Saxman is perhaps best-known as the home of Totem Row Park - an outdoor park which includes 25 Tlingit totem poles. 

The park was created through a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps program, which collected totem poles from abandoned villages throughout southeast Alaska, and hired Alaska Native people to carve duplicates.  Saxman is also home to the Chief Kashakes House – the last example of a “balloon frame” clan house still standing in southeast Alaska.  The Kashakes House is home to two early 20th century totem poles, and a Russian cannon dating back to the 18th century.

jpg AAHP “Most Endangered” Listing Helps Leverage Funding for Saxman Projects

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich travelled to Saxman's Totem Row Park in August of 2011 to assist community members in raising two new Bear Entrance Poles; duplicates of older poles which reached the end of their lifespan.  Saxman looks forwards to raising 5 additional totem poles within the next 2 years.
Photo courtesy City of Saxman

In 2010, the City of Saxman submitted Totem Row Park and the Chief Kashakes House for consideration for inclusion on the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation (AAHP) “Most Endangered Historic Properties” list.  The Kashakes House and Cultural Items made #1 on the list, due to the advanced decay of the property, and challenging issues of ownership.  Totem Row Park was ranked as the #5 Most Endangered property in the State, due to the difficulty and expense of maintaining wooden totem poles exposed to southeast Alaska’s harsh maritime climate.

The City of Saxman then went on to apply for and receive a $180,000 Commercial Passenger Vessel (CPV) excise tax grant from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and a $207,725 National Scenic Byways Grant from the Federal Highway Administration.  Together, these funds will address Totem Row Park’s totem pole duplication, maintenance, and capital improvement needs, and will cover the cost of recarving the Three Eagles in a Tree Pole located at the Chief Kashakes House Property.  The City of Saxman is contributing staff time, in-kind use of Saxman’s Edwin Dewitt Carving Center, and other funds towards the projects. 

Carver Donald Varnell will be overseeing the recarving of a total of five historic totem poles, including the Blackfish Pole shown in Totem Row Park’s 2010 “Most Endangered” listing.  A new Saxman Heritage Arts class, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Art Works” program, will provide youth and children with the opportunity to learn basic carving and restoration skills, and assist Varnell in some aspects of the project.

Saxman’s Grant Coordinator, Jason Custer, reflected upon the community’s newfound package of funding: “In addition to restoring and revitalizing Totem Row Park, these projects will help Saxman develop its carving and restoration workforce, and preserve resources that have served as a focal point for the regional visitor industry.   We are looking at this project as a integrated effort to address Saxman's historic preservation, economic development, and workforce development needs.”

Custer also stated, “The AAHP’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List helped bring renewed attention to Saxman’s preservation challenges.  In addition to helping funders outside of Saxman understand the importance of investing in our community’s cultural and historic resources, the listings helped generate new dialogue and enthusiasm at the local level.”

Earlier this year, carver Donnie Varnell completed recarving a Bear Entrance Pole for Totem Row Park.  Funds were provided by the Cape Fox Corporation and the City of Saxman.  This pole, along with a second re-carved Bear Entrance pole, was raised in a public ceremony in August of 2011.  Both of Alaska’s US Senators – Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich -- attended and spoke at the event, and helped hoist the two Bear Entrance Poles into position. 



Source of News: 

City of Saxman


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