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Gene Ervine

Gene Ervine was interviewed on April 15, 1999 by Karen Brewster at the Bureau of Land Management offices in Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Gene discusses his involvement with the Russian Bishop's House Restoration Project from 1976 to 1982 at Sitka National Historical Park in Sitka, Alaska. In a small conference room without windows, surrounded by piles of old BLM reports and file cabinets, Gene explains details of the original Russian Bishop's House building and how they dismantled it, the research that was done to recreate the house as historically accurate as possible, and the rebuilding process itself. He mentions a number of interesting discoveries the architects and historians made during the project. Gene expresses great enthusiasm for having been involved in such an interesting and historically significant project.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 98-39-10

Project: Sitka National Historical Park
Date of Interview: Apr 15, 1999
Narrator(s): Gene Ervine
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
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1) Introduction and personal background

2) When he began working on the Russian Bishop's House restoration project

3) The condition of the Russian Bishop's House and dismantling the building

4) Figuring out the structure and construction method of the original Russian Bishop's House

5) The National Park Service's role in the Russian Bishop's House restoration project

6) Efforts to document and preserve the Russian Bishop's House history and structure

7) Jacking up the building and replacing its foundation

8) The original Russian wall construction and re-roofing the Russian Bishop's House

9) Dismantling the fireplaces in the Russian Bishop's House

10) Russian fireplaces continued

11) Color and construction style of the Russian Bishop's House roof

12) Russian Bishop's House roof color continued

13) Historical restoration decisions

14) The National Park Service obtaining the Russian Bishop's House.

15) Length of the restoration project

16) Figuring out how to restore the building

17) Finding artifacts during the dismantling and restoration of the Russian Bishop's House, and his role in the project

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Section 1: interpretive specialist/ Bureau of Land Management/ visitor centers/ waste siting/ Russian Bishop's House/ teaching/ logging camp/ employment/ Baranof School/ federal hire system/ laborer/ National Geographic|

Section 2: Russian Bishop's House/ Donald, Tony -- architect/ Denver Service Center/ old Russian orphanage/ building -- run down/ fabric -- investigation/ elephant/ carnival|

Section 3: Swop, Bob/ building -- taking apart/ walls -- patching/ dry rot/ roof -- leakage/ coffee cans/ floor -- false|

Section 4: Devils Club/ sand/ ax chips/ windows -- false/ floor plans/ East gallery|

Section 5: galleries/ building -- taking apart/ National Park Service/ Denver Service Center/ Donald, Tony/ Russian Bishop's House/ Smith, Leonard Drew/ fabric -- investigation/ documentation/ Historic Structures Report|

Section 6: Historic Structures Report/ Smith, Leonard Drew/ Conrad, Randy/ construction -- drawings/ cross braces/ Civilian Conservation Corps employees/ US Forest Service|

Section 7: building -- jacking/ jacking points/ working conditions/ foundation/ concrete/ beachstones|

Section 8: reconstruction -- effort of/ fabric -- investigation/ wall coverings/ Russians/ logs -- use of/ Shalkop, Antoinette/ Shalkop, Bob/ Anchorage Museum of History and Art/ National Park Service/ day labor/ roof -- temporary|

Section 9: day labor -- crew/ contracts/ Opedaka, Henry/ Russian Bishop's House -- finishing/ Russian fireplaces -- dismantling|

Section 10: Russian fireplaces/ monolith/ brick coursework/ restoration/ plasterwork/ fireplaces -- not finished/ Dobrynin, Anatoliy/ Ambassador -- Soviet Union|

Section 11: roof -- color/ Khliebnikov (Khebnikov), Kiril/ Russian America/ Russian American Company/ roof -- replacement/ Etolin, Adolph/ Russian Orthodox Church/ attic/ galleries -- old/ boards -- roof/ roof -- style/ roof -- construction/ boards -- grooved/ boards -- battons|

Section 12: rafters/ perlins/ roof -- pans/ roof -- metal/ roof -- restoration/ roof -- color/ roof color -- inaccurate/ Russian American Company/ restoration -- decisions/ Veniaminov, Ivan/ Bishop Innocent/ Etolin, Adolph/ roof -- wood/ roof -- problems|

Section 13: historical architects/ restoration -- decisions/ Russian Bishop's House -- construction/ Taft, William Howard/ Russian America/ Sitka/ Bishop Innocent/ Saint Innocent/ Veniaminov, Ivan|

Section 14: quot;Bishop's Palacequot;/ Russian Bishop's House -- last occupation/ Bishop Theodocious/ St. Michael's Cathedral -- fire/ St. Michael's Cathedral -- reconstruction/ Russian Bishop's House -- sale of/ National Park Service|

Section 15: National Park Service/ St. Michael's Cathedral -- fire/ Russian Bishop's House/ architecture -- Russian American/ restoration -- length of/ Higgins, Gary/ Laflore, Harold/ Mott, James/ Historic Structures Report/ restoration -- completion/ Skagway|

Section 16: fabric -- investigation/ resources/ Mott, James/ Russian Orthodox Church/ National Archives/ Washington D. C./ Russian American Company/ Veniaminov, Ivan/ Bishop Innocent/ Etolin, Adolph/ building -- problems/ drawings -- original/ floor plan -- original/ documents/ photographs -- Muybridge, Eadweard/ window|

Section 17: moldings/ artifacts -- Russian/ carpenter -- Vasilli?/ photographs/ Shalkop, Antoinette/ alphabet -- Cyrillic/ restoration -- role in/ building -- knowledge of/ longevity/ National Park Service/ Denver Service Center/ resource -- protection|