|On Monday, July 13, twenty-five young men and women arrived in Sitka from points southeast to begin work on restoring the façade of North Pacific Hall. Representing eighteen universities across the lower 48 – and one in France – the historic restoration team has, over the past weeks, both embraced their work on the Fine Arts campus and been embraced by the natural wonder and gracious citizens that make up Sitka at large.
North Pacific Hall, finished in 1911 and designated a National Historic Landmark, along with the rest of the former Sheldon Jackson College campus, in 2001, has a grand south-facing façade, offering a sweeping view of the quad and the Sitka Sound beyond. The HRT team’s task is to attend to this façade: installing new waterproofing; removing and replacing shingles, window casings, window sash weights, cladding, and molding; and more, as needs arise. Based out of the Laundry Building – which last year’s HRT team restored to usable condition – and under the command of Sitka’s own Pete Weiland and Larry Jackson, and shop foreman Randy Bartholomew, the team has accomplished much and learned many techniques, such as scaffold erection, trim and molding router fabrication, and shingle weaving (to name just a few).
Off the clock, the team has enjoyed time to explore Sitka and environs. The team has been blown away by positivity from all directions – one day a passerby will quietly leave a tray of hot brownies on site; the next, a stranger will invite you on a hike up one of the countless trails within throwing distance of town. Groups have taken boat trips out to Medvejie Hatchery and St. Lazaria Island, met the birds of the Raptor Center, assisted in the packing of fish, played pick-up basketball, soccer, and hockey, camped atop Gavan Hill, and, on those necessary lowkey days, drunk countless cups of coffee at the Back Door.
The upcoming week will be bittersweet for the HRT team. As the tarps and scaffolding come down, they’ll be able to see their handiwork from a distance for the first time and know they’ve played a role in the preservation of the Fine Arts Camp and its storied history. But it will also signify the end – for now – of their time in Sitka, which has come to feel like home. When the team splits off and returns to their lives, their spirit will remain here on campus in the façade of North Pacific.