Once the administrative headquarters for an empire stretching from Asia to California and Hawaii, Castle Hill today is little more than a grassy hill with a few interpretive signs, a modest stonewall, several old cannons, and a few flagpoles. But when you visit the top of this hill, you’re standing on rich historic grounds. Archeological excavations have unearthed over 300,000 artifacts on the site, and Russian objects still work their way to the surface. It’s been home to Tlingit longhouses and Russian governor’s mansions. And in 1867, it’s where the United States flag was first raised on Alaska soil. The site is a state historic park, and each year there are colorful festivities here during Sitka’s Alaska Day Festival.
An impressive castle was built here between 1835 and 1842; Baranof’s Castle was named after a territorial governor, though he himself never lived in it. Overlooking the waterfront and ocean, the castle (a three-story mansion) included a ballroom, library, museum, and a lighthouse. The impressive structure, which was filled with crystal chandeliers and tapestries, was a center of commerce, education, and politics for the northwest. The castle burned in 1894, and various territorial, state, and federal offices stood here before it was designated a park.
The hill is accessible by a walkway or trail; there are also interpretive signs at the bottom of the stairs. The flagpoles fly Alaska and U.S. flags in tribute to October 18, 1867, when Alaska was officially transferred from Russia to the United States.