Fort Ross in California, about one hundred miles north of San Francisco, gets its name from "Rossiya" (the Russian word for Russia) as it was a group of Russian settlers who started building a fort there on March 15, 1812.
The expedition, sent by the Russian-American Company and chartered by the tsarist government, came ashore the coast of Spanish California to establish trade relations and hunt sea otters for Russian settlements in Alaska. The land all around Fort Ross was bought from the local Kashaya Indians for three blankets, three pairs of breeches, two axes, three hoes and some beads.
Ivan Kuskov, the founder of the settlement, laid the foundation of the first house of the wooden fortress which was built in traditional Russian architectural style. Most of the structures at the fort were made of local redwood. Today, only one original structure survives – the Rotchev House. It is one of the oldest buildings in western North America and is a National Historic Landmark. Many other buildings have been reconstructed.
Not many Russians actually lived at the fort. Many intermarried with the California natives and the Alaskans. But the place still retained some of its Russian heritage and today there are many Russian surnames in the area and numerous Orthodox Russian churches.
The Russians left the settlement in 1842 as trade declined and the fort was sold several times to various owners, but the structures of the fort remained and in 1906 the site was turned over to the State of California for preservation as a historical monument. It is now a State Historical Park. Every year the park hosts a Cultural Heritage Day. Celebrations include Russian music and dancing, traditional costumes and Russian dishes.