Chief Shakes Historic Site, Clan House – Wrangell AK


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed the Chief Shakes Historic Site in 1940 on an acre of land located on Shakes Island in Wrangell. The clan house is a 1940 replica of an early 19th Century Tlingit community house. The house is surrounded by nine totem poles and it contains two posts that represent two killer whale fins. A 1970 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places describes the formal qualities of the structure: “A central square fire pit is the focus of the structure’s interior. The fire pit is surrounded by a planked platform that would have served as living quarters for several families, each allotted its own space but sharing the common fire. Structurally, the house is dominated by massive posts and beams that support the cedar shake roof with its smoke hole and the heavy, adz-hewn planking that is the facade. A stylized raven on the front is unusual; few houses were so decorated.”

Part of the photographic material published on this page by the Living New Deal was provided by courtesy of Linn A. Forrest (1905-1986), a practicing architect who photographed the totem poles at the time of their restoration, between 1939 and 1941. Forrest oversaw the joint program of the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps to recruit Alaska native carvers in the restoration and recarving of totem poles throughout Southeast Alaska. Employed by the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon, Forrest transferred to Juneau, Alaska in 1937, where he undertook the totem restoration as one of his first projects. Under his supervision, indigenous carvers preserved and restored 103 totem poles and three Tlingit and Haida community houses. Forrest documented the restoration process and maintained notes and a photo record of a significant portion of the work. He used a Leica camera designed for the then new Kodachrome 35mm color slide format.

Source notes

Chief Shakes Historic Site, Shakes Island, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1970, accessed July 21, 2017.

Project originally submitted by Steve Forrest (with documentation courtesy of Linn Forrest); Brent McKee on July 26, 2017.

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Location Info

Chief Shakes Historic Site
Wrangell , AK

Coordinates: 56.465711334891225, -132.38054839133224

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