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Volunteers Needed As Restoration Starts At Bishop's House

Zoe Sobel/KUCB

This summer marks the start of a three-year project to restore Unalaska's Holy Ascension Cathedral and its nearby structures.

Right now, project leaders are focused on the Bishop's House. It has sat idle since a previous renovation effort stalled out about 15 years ago.

"It's just been sitting here getting stale," said Al Williams, a retired preservation specialist who spent 34 years with the National Parks Service. "I'm working right now at trying to button up the exterior."

Williams is based in Wyoming, but the agency's Alaska office brings him out for special projects.

"The plan is to get the Bishop's House up and running as quarters for people," he said. "I'm not exactly sure who's going to be able to stay here, but they're trying to make this generate a little funding."

The grant-funded restoration effort is led by Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska (ROSSIA), with help from the National Parks Service. But Unalaskans can get involved too.

Williams is looking for experienced volunteers to help repaint the Bishop's House as his team finishes the siding, windows, and trim.

"We have an enormous amount of work on the ground level that can be done basically anytime," he said.

Williams will be on-island through the end of next week, and he said volunteers can get involved by contacting the church or stopping by.

The church and the Bishop's House are national historic landmarks, regarded as some of the oldest and most important examples of Russian Orthodox heritage in the state.

Credit Zoe Sobel/KUCB
Father Evon Bereskin clears the roof of the Bishop's House. The national historic landmark has sat idle since a previous preservation effort stalled out about 15 years ago.

This story previously stated that restoration efforts are led by Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska (ROSSIA) and the National Parks Service (NPS). The efforts are actually led by ROSSIA, with assistance from NPS. The story above has been updated to reflect that clarification.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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