Preserving our past

We’re pleased to see the progress being made on the restoration and preservation projects at the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Old Town Kenai.

The project began by addressing the building itself, a 118-year-old structure and National Historic Landmark. Work is now under way to protect the building’s contents — a collection of artwork, icons, artifacts and historical documents. Construction has started on an outbuilding to house the mechanical equipment that will power and run a fire suppression and alarm system.

The project is important to our community in terms of its historical and cultural significance, as well as the significance of the many works of art.

The building itself is one of the oldest structures in the area, worth preserving on that basis alone. The artifacts it houses are examples of a mix of artistic styles, some of them dating back centuries. They truly are, as Resident Priest Thomas Andrew told the Clarion this week, “priceless,” and certainly worthy of the investment being made to keep them safe.

The church has been part of the cultural fabric of Kenai since Russian Orthodox missionaries followed Russian fur traders to Alaska, and continues to be today. It provides a glimpse into the area’s history — one that predates the presence of the oil industry and homesteader settlement. It’s a tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. And it remains a spiritual center for an active congregation.

Indeed, we hope to see the church, all it houses and all it represents still contributing the area’s cultural heritage well into the future.

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