Russian Fort Elizabeth

is a National Historic Landmark and is administered as the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park just southeast of present-day Waimea on the island of Kauaʻi in Hawaiʻi. It is located at the site of the former Fort Elizabety, the last remaining Russian fort on the Hawaiian islands, built in the early 19th century by the Russian-American Company as the result of an alliance with High Chief Kaumualiʻi. The star fort was employed by the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century under the name Fort Hipo (Hawaiian: Paʻulaʻula o Hipo).

Figure 1. Modern state of the fortress from a bird's eye view

Architectural reconstruction of Fort Elisabeth on Kauaʻi Island (Hawaiʻi)



Dr. Aleksandr Molodin, Head of Department in Novosibirsk State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (Sibstrin), Novosibirsk, Russia

Researcher and University teacher with +16 years of experience in an academic environment. Have an PhD in History of Architecture (Social Scientists) and Professional Diploma in Management. He was awarded by nationally and internationally recognized prizes, author of scholarly articles in professional peer-review publications, have an experience of leading role in distinguished University as Dean of Facility and experience of reviewer in world’s top professional journal in the field.




Dr. Peter R. Mills, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, USA

Peter Mills has been teaching at UH Hilo since 1997, and he received the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2001. He started his anthropological training at the University of Vermont (B.A. 1984), where he wrote an honor's thesis on stone tools found in the Champlain Valley. He completed his M.A. at Washington State University (1987), studying use-wear on stone axes from Sand Canyon Pueblo Ruin in southwestern Colorado. After that, he spent several years working in professional positions including fieldwork conducted as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and for the Massachusetts Historical Commission (State Historic Preservation Office). His first fieldwork in Hawaiʻi was with the Bishop Museum in the winter of 1990/91 just before he entered a Ph.D. Program in anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, where his dissertation research focused on a fort on Kauaʻi built by Hawaiians (Pā ʻulaʻula o Hipo/Fort Elizabeth), in association with fur-traders from the Russian-American Company.


The Pacific expansion of the Russian-American Company (RAC) was not completed by founding a number of factories on the Californian coast, and in 1816 it briefly moved on to the territory of one of the Sandwich Islands (presently called Hawaiʻi) where a chain of coastline forts were completed. The largest of them was Fort Elisabeth on the Kauaʻi Island. The fort was part of a network of fortifications of the island consisting of three outposts: Fort Elisabeth itself (called Pā ʻulaʻula, or ʻred enclosure’ in nineteenth century Hawaiian documents), Fortress Alexander and Fort Barclay-de-Tolly. The construction of Fort Elisabeth was incorporated into paramount chief Kaumualiʻi’s own residential compound on the southwestern side of the island, while the two latter ones were occupied by Russain-American Company employees, and controlled the northern part of the island in Hanalei bay by the mouth of the Hanalei River.

Figure 4. Plan of Fort Elizabeth by Captain George Jackson
Much of our present information on Fort features comes from Captain George Jackson’s map, drawn in 1885.

D_plan of fort

Fort Elisabeth is located by the mouth of the Waimea River on its high eastern bank opposite the former settlement of commoner native Hawaiian residents. Although King Kaumualiʻi provided his people for much of the labor to build the fort in Waimea and never relinquished control of his residential compound in which the fort was built, castrametation was done with the assistance of the RAC in the best traditions of Russian defense architecture. The fortress is located in an important strategic point controlling the access to the inner space of the island by river, at the same time fulfilling the functions of defense of the sea coast (from an invasion from the sea).

At present, the fortress is practically completely destroyed. Nevertheless it is considered a National Historic Landmark in the USA and the ruins are protected by the state of Hawaiʻi. Structures inside are completely destroyed, but platforms and piles of rubble remain in certain locations. There are ruins of the fortress wall that have been preserved at the site in different states of disrepair. Aerial photography clearly shows borders of the fortress wall and its configuration (See Figure 1. Modern state of the fortress from a bird's eye view).

Figure 2. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elizabeth by Guy Buffet

Figure 2. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elisabeth by Guy Buffet

Figure 3. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elizabeth by an unknown author

Figure 3. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elisabeth by an unknown author

Relevancy of the study

In the recent times the issue of full scale restoration of the appearance of the fortress is being discussed. The Ambassador of Russia in the United States of America, Sergey Kislyak, talked about this during a conference "Fort Ross Dialogue" in California in October 2014. The Division of State Parks Dept. of Land & Natural Resources of Hawaiʻi is also interested in restoring the fortress. West Kauai Business & Professional Association is systematically working with volunteers to organize sightseeing tours. The Russian diaspora is also interested in its restoration and is working on raising money for this. A special fund has been created to work on restoring the fortress. Actions of social activists and scientists in the area of studying and working on preservation the fortress have intensified leading up to 200-year anniversary of founding the fortress that will take place in 2017.

The preservation of the fort and the work being done should not be performed without a thorough analysis and summary of the extant archaeological, and documentary research. This attempt to graphically restore the appearance of the monument can be the basis for making project documentation for reconstruction of Pā ʻulaʻula/Fort Elisabeth and will serve as an additional impulse in popularization of the idea of restoration of the site of simultaneously Russian, American and Hawaiian cultural heritage.

Until now there haven't been any attempts made to accurately reconstruct the appearance of the fortress. Only some artistic variations on the topic of the appearance of the fortress are known.* Thus, in the 1980s Guy Buffet suggested his idea of what the appearance of the fortress was like (See Figure 2. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elisabeth by Guy Buffet). Other than his, there is at least one image of the structure made by an unknown author (see Figure 3. Artistic reconstruction of Fort Elisabeth by an unknown author). All attempts undertaken in many ways do not correspond to the available historical and archeological data. The spatial-dimensional characteristics of sites are impaired, and unsubstantiated materials and construction methods have been depicted.

* Hiram Binghamʻs Sketch of the village of Waimea in 1824 that shows a portion of the fort walls, and George Jacksonʻs rendering of the fort in 1885

The state of the issue

The basis of research of the episode of Russian settlement of the territory of one of Hawaiian Islands was set at the end of the 19th century by Professor Alexander (Alexander 1894). During the 20th century the interest to the issue gradually grew. The history of it was studied by such scientists as Frank A. Golder (Golder 1930), Anatole Mazour (Mazour 1937), Klaus Mehnert (Mehnert 1939), Harold Bradley (Bradley 1942), Daniil Tumarkin (Tumarkin 1964), etc. A new wave of interest to the topic of Russian presence in the Hawaiian Islands stemmed from an event in 1969 when the land site where the fort is located was transferred from private property to state property and received the status of a historic park. At the end of the 1960s-1970s Soviet Professor Nikolai Bolkhovitinov (Bolkhovitinov 1972; 1999) and American historian Richard Pierce (Pierce 1976) worked on this issue simultaneously, and they have, in many ways, summarized previously held studies. In the 1980s Kikuchi (Kikuchi & Kikuchi 1980) worked on these issues, and in 2002 a book by Peter Mills (Mills 2002) came out which in many ways complemented the research of Pierce and Bolkhovtinov.

However, all studies performed had general historic and anthropological character. Architectural aspects were not emphasized.

Starting from 1972 a number of archeological studies were performed at the site of Fort Elisabeth (McCoy 1972; Hommon 1975; Mills 1996). Other than that, in 1989 Shideler conducted a study at the site of Fort Alexander in Hanalei Bay. Archaeological studies of Fort Barclay-de-Tolly have not been performed. Unfortunately, probable remains of Fort Barclay-de-Tolly were destroyed by new construction in the 20th century, and half of Fort Alexander were also destroyed during construction of a hotel.


Peter R. Mills, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, USA

Methods of studies and reconstructions

Reconstruction of the appearance of the fort was performed using modern computer 3D technologies based on software by Centre de Recherche en Architecture et Ingénierie, France (Jacquot 2011) and Romanian scientists from Politehnica University of Timişoara (Capotescu 2010).

Other than that, based on the technology developed in University of California of interactive communication of a model of a historical monument of architecture with a user (Forte 2012), a 3D computer model of the fort was made as a result of reconstruction with interactive technologies borrowed from the gaming industry that allow any user independently to study the fortress personally or from the bird's eye view. The model is shown for personal study on the Internet website

Figure 5. Plan of the fortress according to McCoy 1972

Figure 5. Plan of the fortress according to McCoy (1972)


Figure 6. Lithograph according to Bingham 1821(22)


Figure 7. View at the church and village from the Fort Bates 1854

Resource base for reconstruction

The following materials are the foundation for reconstruction of the appearance of the fortress:

1. Descriptions of witnesses kept in different archives and published in different years: Kirill Khlebnikov (Khlebnikov 1835); Samuel Whitney (Whitney 1838); Mercy Whitney (Whitney n.d.); Hiram Bingham (Bingham 1855); Samuel Hill (Hill 1818); Valdemar Knudsen (Knudsen 1862); notes of Dr. Yegor Schaffer himself (Pierce 1965; 1976). The most complete description with sketches of the plan and the views of the fortress was given by Captain George Jackson who visited the fortress in 1885 (Jackson 1885), but because the fort was dismantled in 1864, much of what he described was no longer there, and his sketches were drawn based on Jackson’s ideas of the fort “as it stood probably at the time the Doctor [Schaffer] was its commandant” (see Mills 2002:189). The archaeology proved many of Jackson’s interpretations of building function to be suspect, particularly his “barracks” and “trading house.” The ʻbarracks’ appears to have been the original magazine in 1816, and the ʻtrading house’ appears to be the foundation of the Native Hawaiian commandant’s house, which was described in 1850 (Mills 1996:469-470).

2. Fortress plans made by Captain Jackson (Jackson 1885) (See Figure 4. Plan of the fortress according to Jackson 1885), plans and cross sections of the structure made in the process of archeological studying on site (McCoy 1972; Hommon 1975; Mills 1996) (See Figure 5. Plan of the fortress according to McCoy (1972), as well as modern aerospacial pictures of the ruins of the fort.

3. A number of pictures and lithographs of the Fort are known: "Waimea from the fort" (Bates 1854: 229) ; "Village Waimea, Kauai" (Bingham 1855: 217); Lithograph from Bingham 1821(22) (Bingham 1822) (See Figure 6. Lithograph according to Bingham 1821(22)); A sketch made by Captain George Jackson — "View at the Fort from Waimea village" (Jackson 1885); "View at the church and village from the Fort" made possibly by Bates (Bates 1854) (See Figure 7. View at the church and village from the Fort Bates 1854). There is a known photograph of the fortress "Russian fortress with a thatched house" The author is not known. The 1890s. (Kept at Bishop museum).

4. Work describing construction features of the buildings of the region of Hawaiian Islands by Dr. Peter Mills (Mills 2009), William Brigham (Brigham 1908), et al. The description of architecture of Russian settlements on the territory of North America by Katherine Solovieva (Solovieva 1991), Alexander Molodin (Molodin 2010). Architectural work of defensive structures of Europe and Russia by Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban (Vauban 1694) and Nikolai Kradin (Kradin 1988).

Description of the structure

The fortress was built according to a bastion "trace italienne" system of angular fortification. The wall represented a lunette made of five bastions without flanks connected by faces. There were no curtain walls on the side of the bastions. The fortress was facing South-West covering the space of the bay and the mouth of the river with a settlement of native dwellers.  Artillery was openly set on the facing side of bastion corners secured by embrasures. Originally the fortress was thought out most likely as a classical lunette without a gorge. The incompleteness of the perimeter of the fort is noted by witnesses in their notes, "The fort was not completed under the Doctor’s direction but so far finished that a number of guns were mounted on one side, the magazine built and a flag staff erected, on which the Russian colors were seen flying on public occasions." (Whitney 1838:50). The ʻMagazine identified by Whitney is most likely what Jackson called the ʻBarracks’ in 1885 (see discussion below). Most of the remaining structures identified by Jackson were probably added after the RAC left Kauaʻi. A less fortified gorge that was built up, most likely later, was equipped with two smaller in strength weapons that were targeting the area along the river and towards an open valley. This gorge closed the perimeter of the fortress. The wall represented a dirt wall with stone cladding. The lining of the wall was made of natural basalt blocks (now stained red by the lateritic dust) with closely fitting stones on clay binding. This wall had an average thickness of 45 or 50 feet at its base, and was up to 17 feet high. Archeological research by Patrick McCoy in 1972 showed that the height of the wall was not the same. Its height fluctuated from 2.88-2.9 m (a sagene with an arshin) on the side of the gorge up to 5 meters (two sagenes with an arshin) on the facing side (McCoy 1972). There was no ditch or dirt wall. The entrance to the fortress was set between the wall of the first North-Western front and the gorge wall. The entrance was additionally defended by a low stone wall inside which there was a Hawaiian commandant's house.

Based on a picture of Waimea settlement made by Hiram Bingham in the 1820s a part of the wall with bastions had merlons (indentations) with the height of no less than two arshins (1.4-1.5) meters (Bingham 1822). This fact is confirmed by Hill who visited the fortress in 1818. This is how he describes the fort in his autobiography, "This [the new fort] has also been lately built of stone & clay, of an irregular form with a high wall facing the sea & landing place, on the east side of the river with parapets and embrasures (italisized by the authors), & mounts 8 eighteen pounders & a number of lesser calibre but they have no men who are acquainted with the management of them; their colors are a red field with the English union or St. George Cross . . . those at Woahoo the English union with seven stripes red and white” ( Hill 1818).

The corners of fronts had valgangas (earthen berm) to place weapons on them as well as steps to raise protectors of the fortress on them. All five fronts had from five to nine steps depending on the relief that gradually receded to the shoreline of the sea.

(See Figure 9. View at the fortress from the bird's eye. Reconstruction by the authors)

The second Western front had a sally port exiting at the foot of the fortress at the river mouth. The sally port was located at the lowest point of the fortress and was large enough to easily crawl through. The tunnel may have also served as a drain to release rain water and absence of underwater flooding of the internal structures of the fortress in large winter storms, but the size of the tunnel is much larger than would ever be needed to manage storm run-off.

After 1817 the fortress was used by local residents who finished the perimeter, built a dooryard as well as a number of new structures in Hawaiian traditional style inside the fortification.


Figure 9. View at the fortress from the bird's eye. Reconstruction by Dr. Alexander Molodin and Dr. Peter R Mills, 2015

The contents of interior structures of the fortress and their general characteristics

Those few reconstructions of the fort made at the end of the 20th century (for example, by Guy Buffet 1980s), as well as a number of researchers came up with a hypothesis that inside the fortress was set in construction traditions of the indigenous population of the island. Most likely this hypothesis was given based on a number of descriptions of the fortress by witnesses. For example, "The buildings in the fort were made of adobe. I have taken away the rafters which though are very old and not worth much..." (Knudsen 1862:497). In many ways this speculation is supported by archeological research at the site of the fortress made by Dr. Peter Mills (Mills1996) and also in his article "Folk Housing in the Middle of the Pacific: Architectural Lime, Creolized Ideologies, and Expressions of Power in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii" (Mills 2009).

However, based on the description of Doctor Yegor Schaffer himself in the letter Statement to the Main Office, April 22, 1819, some timber from Kad'iak ship was used in fort construction " timber from the ship Kad’iak was used for the construction of Fort Elisabeth on Kauai; part of it was used for the construction of houses for the factory which belonged to the Russian-American Company” (Pierce 1965:135). Most likely, a small amount of wood was used for setting up rafters and other joining elements of structures. Also, historian Ethel Damon wrote that boys in the 1850s from the town of Waimea would go over to the abandoned fort and open a large wooden door: “[the fort] was no longer used, but the older boys kept the small ones in fear and trembling with tales of guards and dungeons within, then boldly burst open the heavy door and took the empty fortress by storm. It had long been disused… the interior proved to be quite deserted, save for old cannon and muskets and strange swords with pistols attached to their hilts.” (Damon1935, pp. 288-289).

Another fact towards choosing local technologies of construction was because the building of the fort itself was done by engaging local population provided by King Kaumualiʻi according to an agreement with Doctor Schaffer. Yegor (Georg Anton) himself most likely was the author of exclusively conceptual part of the design of the fortress. His medical education did not allow him to get into the details of construction business and throughout the duration of construction based on his own diary (Pierce 1976: 157-218). Schaffer appeared in the fortress no more than a dozen times making inspection visits. Despite this fact, the most important fortificating part of the fortress was made in accordance with all technological requirements to such types of structures (Vauban 1694).

Based on the analysis of available sources, it is possible to make conclusions about three main technologies of constructing walls of interior structures: adobe, lime- plastered and thatched structures.

Table 1. The technology of building up walls of the interior structures of the fortress




Adobe structures

Laying of walls on clay binding made of adobe bricks — a construction material made of clay soil with an addition of straw or other additives dried in the open air. The foundation is made of basalt blocks with closely fitting stones on clay binding

- First Magazine and Armory (Jacksons ʻBarracks’).

Lime-plastered structures

Laying of walls made of adobe bricks on clay binding, lime-plastered and colored in white color. The foundation is made of basalt blocks of deer color with closely fitting stones on clay binding.

- [second] Magazine and armory

- Guardroom

The remnants of lime plaster were found only in the area of these buildings. (Mills 1996)

Grass thatched structures

The method of construction when blades of grass are vertically attached on horizontal crossbeams of the main carcass. Vertical crossbeams (columns) of the carcass were clamped in the massive foundation made of basalt blocks of deer color with closely fitting stones on clay binding.

- Quarters around the interior perimeter with the exception of the ʻguardroom.’ (See McCoy 1972).

Adobe technology of building and lime-plastered structures were often used in the European part of Russia and Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Poland) where there was lack of building timber. In this case, the first Magazine and Armory, built with adobe at the center of the fort, is the most likely candidate a structure influenced by Schaffer’s design. Later lime-plastered structures fit with broad architectural trends in Hawaiʻi in the 1830s. It is evident that builders of the fort were in the situation of limited construction resources, therefore the choice of the technology was justified.

Thatched buildings were a characteristic technology of construction of the local population (Brigham 1908), the representatives of which built the fortress, and continued to use it after 1817.

The roofs of all buildings except the two magazines were made of straw (grass thatched roof) set on wooden rafters, Alexander describes the first magazine room as being constructed with `ohia [lehua] timbers and covered with earth. The second magazine, built largely of coral blocks, basalt rocks, and lime mortar and plaster appears to have had a grass-thatched roof that was covered in lime-plaster for fire-proofing (Mills 1996:379; 2002:211-212). Grass-thatching was widely spread among the local population and was also often used on the European territory.

The archeological excavations did not find window glass chips on the territory of the fortress. Besides, windows were unfamiliar elements for traditional houses of the local population. Windows started being used in Hawaiian construction only with the mass appearance of European construction traditions in the middle of the 19th century (Brigham 1908). That is why with a higher degree of probability one can talk about the absence of natural lighting in the interior structures of the fortress.

Figure 10. First Magazine (Jacksons ʻBarracks’) — копия

Figure 10. The appearance of the First Magazine (Jacksons Barracks’). 

Reconstruction by Alexander Molodin and Peter R Mills, 2015

First Magazine (Jacksons ʻBarracks’). This structure is located in the center and was the largest structure of the fortress. Its size in the plan was 10 х 3 sazhens (70х21 feet or 21.6х6.5 m, see Jackson 1885). If we accept Whitney’s account, the fort certainly contained a magazine and a flagstaff before the RAC left Kauaʻi. The following year in 1818, Peter Corney suggested the fort contained “dungeons” (Corney 1896:88), and in the late nineteenth century, Historian W.D. Alexander wrote “The fort contained one room, excavated in the ground, and roofed with enormous, heavy lehua trees [ʻohia lehua, or Metrosideros polymorpha, a dense hardwood tree in Hawaiian forests], with a thick layer of earth over the logs. This room was perfectly bomb-proof.” These descriptions match well with the most central ruin inside the fort, which Jackson appears to have mis-labled as a “barracks.” Archaeological excavations demonstrated that this structure does indeed contain a cellar that was 2 meters deep. At some point in the past, the cellar hole was filled with adobe blocks that still contain imprints of the straw that was mixed with the adobe (Mills 1996, 2002). Most likely following the filling of the cellar hole, graves appear to have been added to the exterior of the platform. In addition to the adobe blocks filling the cellar-hole, the walls of the cellar were plastered with adobe mud (not lime), and as such, stand in contrast to the second “Magazine and Armory” built adjacent to it (most likely in the 1830s), and the “Guardoom.”

This central structure was located on a massive stone and earth foundation made of basalt with loosely fitting stones The entrance into the structure was made on the side of the main Western front closer to the arsenal. Currently, a stone-lined pathway with a pebble paving leads from the entrance of the fort to the entrance of this structure. Jackson states that this pathway was ʻcovered’ which may refer to a thatched superstructure over the path (Jackson 1885).

This significantly large space in the plan was not divided into separate space inside according to the Hawaiian tradition, and it is large enough to have stored the several hundred casks of gunpowder that King Kaumuali`i kept inside the fort in the early 1820s (Mercy Whitney Journal, March 29, 1821, Hawaiian Mission Childrens Society Library). (See Figure 10. The appearance of the First Magazine (Jacksons ʻBarracks’). Authors' reconstruction).

Arsenal. To the North of the first magazine, there was an arsenal with a much smaller gunpowder cellar (approximately 2.5m x 2.5m x 1m deep). Captain Jackson is also described the arsenal in detail after he had visited the fortress in 1885, " Near this was the arsenal and powder magazine 57 x 43 [feet] (17.6х13.3 m), built of good [coral] brick and stone, having in the center a sunken space, lined with masonry, 7 feet square for the powder" (Jackson 1885). Peter Mills notes that during archeological excavations of the structure many lime plaster and mortar fragments of the roof with grass imprints were found (Mills 1996), which indicates that a layer of grass was placed on wooden rafters where the lime-plastered roof was set on.

The presence of lime plaster in multitude at the site of excavations means that the walls of the second magazine were finished and most likely were colored in white according to the tradition of the local population.

The same as for the barrack, the arsenal had a pebble-lined pathway from the entrance to the fortress, and if we are to believe Jackson, the pathway was covered, presumably with a thatched superstructure.

Officer's Quarters. To the North of the arsenal, at the walls of the gorge, at the highest point of the fortress there was what Jackson labeled a small Officer's Quarters set using traditional Hawaiian construction technology, covered with high grass roof on wooden tress framing. " ...under the walls at various points stood small buildings, officers’ quarters probably" (Jackson 1885). The small size of the Officer's Quarters allow to speculate that inside it was not divided into separate spaces and represented a structure of the size of a sazhen and an arshin by two sazhens and an arshin in the plan (5.04х2.88 m). The entrance to the quarters was probably from the Southern side that was facing the center of the fortress.

Figure 14. Officer's Quarters — копия

Figure 14. Officer's Quarters

Reconstruction by Alexander Molodin and Peter R Mills, 2015

The Guardroom

Figure 11. The appearance of the Guardroom.

Reconstruction by Alexander Molodin and Peter R Mills, 2015

The Guardroom. At the entrance to the fortress, on its interior, there was a structure that George Jackson called a “guardroom.” According to available historical sources there is a very brief description, and archeological excavations in 1994 did not expose the entire foundation, and cannot provide exact dimensions, but the surface mounds and debris suggest a structure of approximately 43ft. by 22 ft. (13m. x 6.5m.). Similar to the arsenal, many fragments of lime plaster were found around the guardroom, which speaks about the structure of its walls. From the imprints in the plaster, the structure appears to have been framed with stick thatching, and then plastered with lime mixed with earth and sand with a layer of whitewash on the outside. The structure was free-standing but near the fortress wall. The entrance of the structure probably faced the entrance to the fortress from the abutting end of the building. No window glass was found in the excavations, suggesting the structure did not have any glass windows. The guardroom was probably covered in grass roof on wooden rafters according to the Hawaiian tradition. (See Figure 11. The appearance of the Guardroom. Authors' reconstruction).

Quarters #1, #2. Similar in size to the Officer’s Quarters, the quarters were located inside two of five bastions. Although Captain Jackson speculated that these were Russian era structures, it is well established that the fort held Hawaiian prisoners in the 1830s (Mills 2002:168), and these structures closely match the description* of prison cells in the Honolulu fort from the same era.

The walls were made similarly to the Officer's Quarters, using local traditional grass thatched technology, the roof was covered in grass. (See Figure 12. The appearance of Quarters #1, #2. Authors' reconstruction).

* The prison cells are “a row of small thatched houses, whose tops projecting a little above the ramparts, are pierced with grated openings intended as dungeon windows. These are the prisons of the island, although the impression upon a stranger of their use as a place of confinement would be rather vague.” Fancis Allyn Olmtead “Incidents of a Whaling Voyage” 1841 p. 195 (1969 reprint Tuttle & Co, Rutland, Vermont)

Quarters #1, #2

Figure 12. The appearance of Quarters #1, #2.
Reconstruction by Alexander Molodin and Peter R Mills, 2015

Figure 13. Hawaiian commondant’s house

Figure 13. The appearance of the commondant’s house.
Reconstruction by Alexander Molodin and Peter R Mills, 2015

A Hawaiian commondant’s house located at the foot of the fortress inside the dooryard was also a similar structure. Although Captain Jackson called this location a “trading house,” archaeological and historical records prove his wrong. This was the Hawaiian commondant’s house in the 1830s through the 1850s and was made using the same appearance and technology as the structures inside the fortress. Hawaiian commandant Pāʻele gave a clear description of his house being located at this spot in March of 1850 (Mills 2006:470). (See Figure 13. The appearance of the commondant’s house. Authors' reconstruction). Archaeological investigations also found a typical domestic Hawaiian house floor at this location (Mills 2002:204), and no evidence of items that would be lost around a “trading house,” like glass beads.

Quarters #3 is one more structure that was built in the late period of use of the fortress. This structure, just like the commondant’s house was made in the traditional grass-thatch framework for Hawaiian houses, and had a pebble paving on the floor. The entrance to the house is not clearly established but was likely in the middle of the eastern side.

The flag post should be added to the described structures as a construction with a massive foundation made of natural basalt stones now weathered with a dark red patina with loose fitting stones in a form of short truncated pyramid. At the center of the foundation there was a tall shaft clamped where there was the flag of Russian-American Campaign flying at first, and then there was the flag of Kaumualiʻi King there. This may very well be the same flagpost where Kaumualiʻi raised an American flag in February of 1814 shortly before his Russian alliance (Mills 2002:101), and if so, it is most likely the oldest feature at the fort. There are a lot of witness reports about the flag post located at the center of the fortress, "a flag staff erected, on which the Russian colors were seen flying on public occasions". (Whitney 1838:50). Captain Jackson even describes the structure of its foundation, " In the center of the ruin is the square stone block from which rose the flagstaff..." (Honolulu 1885: May 18).

At the foot of the fortress there was a small pier — a wooden planking at the edge of the water. The depth of the river evidently did not allow large sea vessels to reach the shore, that is why the planking served as a pier for small sloops. A short description of this structure survived and was written by Samuel Wilcox, who was born in 1847, reported visiting the Fort as a boy: "As the fort was on the east bank of the Waimea river it was out of the question to carry the guns over to the regular landing beach. Fortunately there was a small landing place built at the foot of the high bluff on which the fort stands. The men tied ropes to the guns and slid them down onto this and the schooner’s boats were able to come up the river and be loaded" (Wilcox 1924:68).

It should be noted about the absence of other traditional features for any Russian fortress elements of a well, a banya, a kitchen and ceremonial structures (a church or a chapel). This is explained, first of all, by the original purpose of the fortress being in service to the local population who did not have a tradition of sharing a common kitchen, common bath houses, and who had a religion different from the one Russians had.


As a result of the study performed of the original materials, their comprehensive analysis using modern computer modelling means, a 3-D model of Fort Elisabeth on Waimea Island was created. The fort represents a closed perimeter of an earthen fortification with stone cladding in the form of a lunette with a gorge. The cladding of the fortress wall and foundation of interior structures were made of natural volcanic rock (basalt) with closely fitting stones on clay binding. Five fronts of the lunette with merlons had large weapons set in bastion corners. Two smaller weapons were located on the gorge. The entrance of the fortress was strengthened by a dooryard. Inside the fortress and in the dooryard there were at least 8 structures built using traditional 19th century Hawaiian construction technologies — adobe, lime-plastered and grass thatched wall structures. Roofs of all structures were made of grass set on wooden truss frameworks. The roof of the arsenal was strengthened by lime plaster set on top of the grass roof. (See Figure 9. View on the fortress from a bird's eye view. Authors' reconstruction.)

The 3D model of the fortress made can be used for self-study purposes using interactive technologies on website.

The drawings made as a result of the study, as well as images and descriptions can be used in order to popularize the fortress, as well as in order to make design and budget documentation for a full-scale restoration of the fortress.

Appendix 1. Terms used in the description

Bastion (Ital. bastione) is any protruding construction, a five-corner long-term fortification in the form of a lunette with two faces, two flanks and an open gorge that was built on the corners of fortress fence and attached to it. Halves of two neighboring bastions facing each other and a connecting their area of the fence curtain make the bastion front. A combination of several bastion fronts strengthened by auxiliary structures was called a bastion system.

Bastion corner is a corner that was made up of bastion faces.

Gun hole is a part of a fortificating structure that represented covering up from targeted shots and eyes of an enemy.

Gorge (French gorge — neck, throat) is the back side of separate fortifications.

Merlons are areas of slotted wall on fortress walls between the gun holes.

Italian system of fortification — see Bastion.

Castrametation (Latin castra — camp and metor — measure) is an ancient term that has not been used since the 19th century meaning the art of choosing a place for military camps and providing fortifications for them, as well as barriers from opponent attacks. Originally castrametation was a branch of military art. It appeared in Ancient Greece and Persia, and was especially developed in Ancient Rome.

Fortress is a strategic point fortified by means of long-term fortification and supplied with a permanent military post, weapons, provision and management.

Curtain (Italian curitne — curtain) is an area of the fence barrier between the flanks of two neighboring bastions or between two towers.

Lunette (French lunettes — glasses) is an open from the gorge field fortification with one or, more often, two faces and two flanks.

Defense structures are a group of fortificating structures used to shoot from.

Cladding in fortification is artificial siding of earthen sloping to protect from destruction, collapse and erosion by water or to reduce the sloping.

Face, front (French face — a face) is a side of a fortification facing the field.

Flank (French flanc — a side) is a short side of the fortification, perpendicular or almost perpendicular to the front line. In the bastion system this is the side of the bastion between the face and the curtain where weapons were set to shoot at the ditch in front of the curtain.

Flank (curtain) corner is the corner between the flank and the curtain.

Fort (Latin fortis — strong, tough) is a closed fortification of long-term or temporary character, the main element of the line of external fortifications of the fortress.

Fortificating structure is a structure built to provide for the fight itself.

Fortification (Latin fortificatio — fortification) is defined both as an art and as science. French Engineer Lobligeois defines Fortification as «an art of using passive resistance of immovable structures (obstacles, shelters and closings) in order to save strength».


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