The Russian-American Company’s move southward from Alaska along the California coastline was driven by a search for stable food supplies and highly-valued sea otter pelts. Fort Ross, the southernmost outpost in Russia’s American colony, was established by Ivan Kutskov in 1812, as a trading and agricultural fort to support the Company’s settlements in Alaska. The fort displaced the native Kashaya Pomo people’s seasonal home.
Over the ensuing three decades, Russian hunters virtually wiped out coastal supplies of sea otters. Then, in 1842, the Russian-American Company reached a trade deal with the Hudson Bay Company that eliminated the need for Fort Ross as an agricultural base. The Company abandoned the Fort and land, later selling it.
In 1903, the California Historical Commission purchased the land from its successive owner and, in the ensuing century, the Fort has undergone significant restoration, much of it by volunteers, as well as archaeological investigation (just one building, Rotchev House, the home of the last manager, is original). Today, the Fort is a National Historic Landmark.
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