The Eldred Rock Lighthouse and Fort Seward Hospital Building were among eleven sites across the state named this year as Alaska’s most endangered historic properties.

Both buildings were constructed nearly 120 years ago and are undergoing restoration work.

Built in 1905, a few years after a steamship full of miners and gold ran aground and sank, the beacon on Eldred Rock, an island in the Lynn Canal 20 miles south of Haines, is the oldest lighthouse in Alaska and the only surviving of several octagonal frame lighthouses built between 1902 and 1905.

Built a year earlier, the historic hospital at Fort Seward is a centerpiece of the old U.S. Army base that was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978 and one of the largest buildings in Haines at 10,000 square feet. For five decades, until freezing up in 2019, the building served as the headquarters of Alaska Indian Arts.

Preservation Alaska, formerly the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation, has published an annual list of the 10 or 11 “most endangered” historic buildings in the state for 31 years. The list is geared to raise awareness and bolster funding opportunities.

The lighthouse will be on the list for the fourth straight year, while the hospital building is making its debut. The Fort Seward Barracks Building appeared on the list in 2014, and in 2002 the entire fort was listed.

“It seems like it’s not a good list to be on, but it is,” said Port Chilkoot Company board member Christina Baskaya, who said she and former board member Annette Smith nominated the hospital building. “(It) raises awareness across the state, and maybe even nationally, about the need to preserve, protect and rehabilitate the (hospital) building.”

Earlier this year Port Chilkoot Company received a $27,000 grant from the Alaska Office of History and Archeology (OHA) for a project to renovate the hospital building’s back porch and repair its plumbing and heating, which froze up in 2019 and rendered the building unusable. That project started in April and is expected to take six months.

Baskaya said the company nominated the hospital building and not the barracks building, which made the list in 2014, because the latter had been used until more recently and is actively undergoing resuscitation.

“It’s where Alaska Indian Arts had their headquarters, which brought a lot of tourism and focus on Haines and the fort,” Baskaya said. “We hope that we can continue to resurrect and bring revitalized focus to the fort if we can open up the hospital building and some of our larger buildings to be utilized and saved.”

A description of the building on the list notes several features that need repair: “Shingles and chimneys are broken allowing water to leak inside damaging the structure. Moss is growing on the roof, which is leading to more impairment to the roof tiles, by allowing moisture to settle and degrade the shingles.”

But the building, according to the description, “has great potential as a community asset and could serve as home to an historical interpretation center, a community center, an arts school, a business hub, a senior activity center, or any of a number of other roles.”

Baskaya said due to the building’s size she envisions it as multi-use space.

The lighthouse facilities also could be open for public use once repairs are finished, said Sue York, executive director of the Eldred Rock Lighthouse Preservation Association.

For more than two decades Haines and Juneau residents have been attempting to work out the logistics and raise the funds needed to restore the lighthouse, which was decommissioned in 1973 when the light was automated.

“For 50 years, it’s been standing there with no maintenance and no attention,” York said.

Volunteers and contractors started restoration work last year and will continue this summer.

According to Preservation Alaska, the “primary reasons” for the lighthouse’s state of disrepair are weather and remoteness.

“The concrete base of the lighthouse is spalling and needs quite a bit of attention,” reads a description from Preservation Alaska. Water damage is the biggest concern, and the lighthouse will remain on the most endangered list until repairs have been done, according to the description.

The site could be partially opened for public use by next year, York said. “We plan to give tours, to rent the rooms,” she added. (There are five bedrooms on the island.) Work this summer will include further repairs and cleaning to ensure the site is usable.

York said one of the biggest challenges has been finding transportation from Haines. She encouraged residents interested in helping the preservation effort to visit

Trish Neal, president of Preservation Alaska, said the organization for the first time named 11 buildings on the list, instead of 10, because all deserved to be listed. She said the nomination application includes questions about each property’s history, why it’s endangered and efforts to save it.

“I wish more people around the state were aware of (the list),” Neal said. “You never know who out there might be interested in contributing to restoration.”