SSSC: The Mill Project

The Mill Project:

The Sitka Sound Science Center is dedicated to increasing understanding and awareness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Alaska through education and research. We could not accomplish this without the facility support of the Sitka Sawmill Building. The Mill Building is fundamental to delivering quality science education and top-notch research programs that are important to our national welfare. We need your help now to save it.  

The renovation of the Mill Building is not just about keeping a piece of our national history or research or salmon enhancement or education opportunities for our youth. The renovation of the Mill Building will also create new possibilities for the future. With the ocean at its front door, this simple structure looks out over Sitka Sound, the North Pacific Ocean where the next frontiers in scientific discovery await us. Who knows what answers the ocean holds to some of our biggest questions about cures for disease, sources of energy, and new technology

The Mill Building isn’t just 4 walls and a roof…

The Mill Building is a local, state and national resource. It is a place for students, scientists, fishermen, naturalists, teachers, historians, shoppers, baby salmon, curious kids, artists, divers, seafood enthusiasts, newlyweds, life-long learners, and everyone else.

By donating to the Mill Project, you will be supporting Alaskan salmon. You will be ensuring a rich education for rural students and the general public. You will be helping to build upon the rich legacy of science and research in Sitka, Southeast, and Alaska. By donating to the Mill Project, you will be investing in a future that answers some of our biggest questions about the ocean and the world around us.

During the Mill Building’s rich history it has been a place to mill the lumber used to build boats and homes, teach Alaska Native students, experiment with aquaculture, foster new relationships, launch a kayak adventure, converse with physicists about the universe, eat a bowl of chowder with friends, rearticulate a killer whale skeleton….the list goes on.

The Mill Building is a place that allows us to reflect on our past while enrich our future. It is an irreplaceable landmark and living treasure. If we don’t work together to protect our national history and help build a brighter future for research and science education, who will? Any amount you can contribute will get us that much closer to our collective goal! We are just asking that you give an amount that is significant to you, whether it be $20 or $2,000. It takes a village to keep our community thriving. Science is a critical part of ensuring we build a future that we are proud to share with generations to come. Please give today.


The first Sheldon Jackson sawmill, known today at the Mill Building, was constructed in 1934 by students under the direction of school engineer Charles Stuart. The school operated the mill until January 12, 1940, when a fire destroyed the building. Construction of the rectangular-shaped, one-story, 3,851-square foot mill that now occupies the site began on September 12, 1940. The engine room was made of concrete and the roof and walls were built with galvanized steel to provide fire protection. On January 8, 1941, the sawmill cut its first lumber and continued to serve the school until 1976 when the machinery was sold. The sawmill had served the campus for over 30 years. In the 1970s the building was converted to be used for the new salmon aquaculture program. Its simple architecture was a standard of the time that even today is utilitarian and highly functional for industrial and educational purposes. The Sheldon Jackson Training School was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001, with 20 contributing structures including the Sage and Mill Buildings (today these two builds make up the Sitka Sound Science Center).

When the college closed its doors in 2007, volunteers from the community helped keep the hatchery operational. At the same time former science faculty worked together to determine how Sheldon Jackson College’s legacy of providing science education and quality research for the state could be maintained. This lead to the University of Alaska organized a meeting in Sitka of state and federal agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game, NOAA, University of Alaska, representatives from aquaculture and science education and researchers from across the State. The Sitka Sound Science Center was formed as a nonprofit with the goal of improving understanding of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Alaska through scientific education and research.


M aritime and Mill History 

I ncubating Salmon

L egacy of Science

L earning and Community

1.     Maritime and Mill History:

The Sheldon Jackson Sawmill Building is the last remaining sawmill from the golden age of boat building in the early 20th century in Sitka, Alaska.

This project will rehabilitate the foundation of the Sitka Sawmill Building, known today as the Mill Building, an important contributing structure of the Sheldon Jackson Training School National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1878, the Training School was the oldest institution of higher education in Alaska. The school played a major role in Alaska Native education and was the birthplace of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, which is the oldest known indigenous persons’ civil rights organization in the nation. Alaska Native students built the original structure and learned to mill wood. The lumber milled by the students was used to build plank-style boats and homes. The proposed improvements to the building and strategic community engagement will raise awareness about the role that Alaska Natives have played in our nation’s history.

2.     Incubating Salmon:

The Mill Building has been working to protect our rich Alaskan salmon resources for over 40 years by supporting the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery, the first state-issued salmon hatchery permitted in Alaska.

You already know that salmon are essential to life in Southeast Alaska. They are indispensable to the ecosystem and they drive much of the culture and economy in the region. The Sheldon Jackson Hatchery is a fully operational salmon hatchery permitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In its inception, in 1974, it was one of the few college-owned and managed training salmon hatcheries in the United States, and the only one in Alaska. Today, the hatchery produces 12 million chum, 3 million pink, and ¼ million coho each year and still serves as an important educational and training facility for the state. To continue the hatchery’s legacy the SSSC has a special partnership with the University of Alaska Fisheries Technology Program. The Fish Tech Program provides associate degrees and certification in aquaculture and fisheries management.  SSSC provides hands-on training opportunities for students in the program. With the support from the Mill Building, the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery has trained many of Alaska’s fisheries biologists, fisheries managers, and aquaculture specialists.

3. Legacy of Science:

The Sitka Sound Science Center is partnered with numerous universities, organizations, and governmental agencies in pursuit of research, and to seek out ways in which new scientific information can be used to benefit, educate, and inspire our community and state.

The Science Center, which is an official member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations and the National Association of Marine Laboratories, is involved in a wide variety of locally-relevant aquatic and terrestrial research . As a field station and educational facility, we offer logistical support for university field courses, rent bench space to visiting scientists , and provide numerous citizen science learning opportunities for the public. The research at the Center benefits fisheries, subsistence users, coastal resilience , long-term monitoring of climate change, the field of STEM education, and marine debris cleanup. The support services capacity of the Mill Building is vital to growing our programs and creating a base for innovative scientific thinking. Currently, there is a newly established dive program at the Center.  As dive ocean research will be critical to understanding rapid changes to the environment, renovations to the Mill Building will support growth of this kind of work. Research at the Sitka Sound Science Center is always changing and growing to meet the needs of the world around us. 

4. Learning and Community:

The Sitka Sound Science Center’s vision is to build upon and expand Sitka’s legacy as a fishing and subsistence community that fosters scientific discovery. We also strive to bring people together, whether it is for the sake of science, to celebrate a special occasion, or simply grab a bite to eat.

The Mill Building is a launch point for many learning experiences and adventures. It is a staging area for a breadth of educational activities. With programs for each age level, we’re creating a pipeline of authentic scientific experiences during the entire academic career of Sitka’s youth. Many events have been hosted in the Mill Building from science talks to workshops on Native Alaskan art. Additionally, the Science Center is a field station that allows researchers to study one or more diverse environments, including the marine, temperate rain-forest, and alpine ecosystems found right outside our front and back doors. A Stanford University Field Course Instructor once said,

 Sitka Sound Science Center is far more than a classroom and a laboratory, it’s a pathway to understanding Sitka’s unique ecology and geology, and to becoming a part of its wonderful community. The people and the resources of the Sitka Sound Science Center are second to none. Everything they do for field courses, from the learning to the logistics, will help deepen your students’ understanding and relationship to the ecology and community of Southeast Alaska.

Renovating the Mill Building will enhance our ability to educate locals and visitors about the incredible world around us.

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Organizer and beneficiary

Madi Murph
Sitka, AK
Melissa Hamilton

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