The calendar has been turned back 200 years at Fort Ross, where a windmill is being built just as it had been when the Russians first settled there, with hand tools and hand-hewn logs.
The construction of the windmill is also in stark contrast to the fortress that now defines Fort Ross, and is a recognition that the site was more of a colony than a military outpost.
"For the Russian people, there were two important objects, the church and the windmill — the church because it was bread for your soul and the windmill, bread for your body," said Olga Miller of the Renova Fort Ross Foundation, a Russian organization that has provided financial support to the state park.
The new windmill was built in Kirillov, Russia, where the windmills were built two centuries ago, then disassembled and shipped to Fort Ross.
The pieces arrived in two containers Friday, and by Monday the main feature, a central post, was in place to support and serve as the swivel for the windmill.
"This was the first for California," said Anton Maltsev, an architect with the Restoration Centre in Moscow, which built the replica windmill. "Before this, they didn't know windmills."
The replica windmill is part of the 200th anniversary celebration of the founding of Fort Ross.
The windmill logs, wooden gears and bracing are pine, spruce and birch. There are two 200-year-old millstones that were in old Russian windmills. Braces and iron fittings are hand-forged.
It will be assembled over the next two to three weeks by Russian craftsmen using wooden pegs, axes, adzes and drawknives.
The original windmill was one of two that were constructed at Fort Ross to grind grain for bread and pound tanbark for oil used in tanning leather.
"Ross was a colony, said Breck Parkman, a senior archaeologist with California State Parks. "It was not intended as a fort, but at the time, the Russians built the settlement with a fortified center."
The settlement had a population of 300 to 400 and was occupied until 1841, when the Russians abandoned the project and sold the fort to John Sutter of Sacramento.
"If you had been at Ross during its heyday, it would have been hard to see the fort; it would have been surrounded by other structures," Parkman said. "Most of the activities were outside the walls."
Fort Ross was founded in 1812 on a windswept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean by the Russian-American Co., as a trading post and a colony to hunt otter and grow food for similar Russian colonies in Alaska.
Built in 1814, the windmill was a typical Russian style, 37 feet tall with 19-foot vanes.
It was a "post mill," in which the mill house swiveled around a central post about 24 inches in diameter that would have been sunk 6 to 8 feet into the ground, which was how the vanes were kept facing into the wind.
The replica windmill was built at a cost of $300,000 by the Link of Times Foundation, a cultural organization devoted to historical artifacts. It is being donated to the park.
The architecture was determined a decade ago by historical architect Igor Medvedev, based on an 1842 color rendering of the fort and on the design of windmills in Russia at that time.
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