If you've ever driven I-84 through Oregon, you may have noticed a near-perfect replica of Stonehenge perched atop a bluff on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Why is it there?
I'm glad you asked!
Goldendale Washington's Stonehenge replica was built by Sam Hill, a famously eccentric Pacific Northwest businessman and builder. He oversaw the construction of many of the major roads in the Pacific Northwest including U.S. 30 through the Columbia River Gorge, The Peace Arch on the U.S. - Canada border and a huge mansion in Goldendale, WA which is now the Maryhill Museum of Art.
“This museum was originally a ranch house," said Colleen Schafroth, who works at Maryhill Museum of Art. "He [Sam Hill] was going to have a Quaker farming community here on the bluffs of the Columbia River."
Schafroth says Hill envisioned a farming community sprouting up around his home but, for some reason, nobody wanted to live near him.
“In 1918 he met Loie Fuller, a very famous dancer at the turn of the century," she said, "For some reason they got to talking about the place, she came up here and said 'You should turn it into a museum.'"
Sam and Loie got to work gathering art from around the world, including original sculptures by Auguste Rodin( you know, the guy who made "The Thinker").
In 1926, another one of Sam Hill's lady friends, English-born Queen Marie of Romania stopped by to make a few donations to the museum. Including an impressive crown.
The Maryhill Museum of Art's collection continues to change and grow. Now, visitors can see "Théâtre de la Mode," a collection of fashionable miniature French mannequins, an assortment of Art Nouveau glass, about one-hundred rare and unique chess sets, Native American art and much, much more.
Shortly before Sam Hill's death in 1931 the final stone was set in place at Goldendale's Stonehenge Memorial, just a few miles away from Hill's mansion. Schafroth says Hill was under the impression the original Stonehenge in England was a place of human sacrifice so, he built the replica to honor the sacrifice of soldiers from Klickitat County who died during WWI.
Sam Hill dedicated the site with a plaque that reads "To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country. This monument is erected in hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench."
Stonehenge is free to visit and open everyday 7 a.m. to dusk. For more information on the Maryhill Museum of Art, click here.