Formerly a small private college founded in 1878, the famed Sheldon Jackson College has enjoyed a variety of lives in Sitka. As the oldest college/university in Alaska, it had a close partnership with the Presbyterian Church and was named after Reverend Sheldon Jackson. The college closed in 2007 following low enrollment rates and was revived in 2011 as the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Initially, the college was a “training school” for local Alaska Native boys. Founded by Fannie Kellogg and John Brady specifically for the Tlingits, the first name was the Sitka Industrial and Training School. However, following a fire in 1882, it nearly closed its doors. Missionary Rev. Jackson led the reconstruction, and years later, in 1910, the school was re-named in his honor. In 1917, a boarding high school component was added, and the college program began in 1944.

A Rich History

The college was granted accreditation in 1966, and in 1972 the building gained National Register of Historic Places status. In 2001, it became a National Historic Landmark. Stratton Library on campus housed 48,000 items with ten percent an homage to Alaskan history. It featured a variety of rare periodicals and first editions. The National Park Service received some library items in 2010 while the remainders went to other Alaska libraries.

Today, the Sheldon Jackson Museum on site is a Native American museum showcasing original artifacts (many collected by Rev. Jackson). It was the first museum in the state, founded alongside the first school in 1887. The State owns and maintains the museum, where visitors enjoy over 5,000 artifacts.