Maryhill Museum

 

Maryhill

If you drive eastward along the Washington side of the Columbia River from Portland, you will encounter dramatic shifts of scenery.  The forested hills of Clark and Skamania county turn craggy as you pass through the Cascades, and the cliffs grow higher on either side of the river; then you see an odd shimmer in front of you – it never fails – and suddenly you pass from the damp greenery of Western Washington into the deserty hills of Eastern Washington. 

 

 

The cliffs in the gorge are spectacular.  One of the most spectacular places is Wishram Heights, which overlooks (more or less) a stretch on the Columbia which used to be a tumbling rapids called Celilo Falls.  The damming of the Columbia filled the waterfall, and it’s a lake now.  (Don’t be sad.  Someday the dams will fall, and Celilo Falls will still be there.)

 

 

A wealthy railroad man named Sam Hill loved this stretch of the riverside.  He built two things here: a replica of Stonehenge, and a huge rambling house, which he named after his wife Mary.  It is a windy lonely place now, and it must have been twenty times as lonely when Sam and Mary lived here.

 

 

The Stonehenge replica is no mere reproduction; it is a depiction of the original Stonehenge, with all of the stones in place.  Klickitat County, Washington (Partner calls it “Clicketyclack,” just to peeve me) made it their World War I memorial; my great-uncle Dewey Bromley is commemorated on one of the upright stones.  (Dewey died on a ship, either en route to the war or returning from it.)

 

 

The big house is now a museum, with a huge beautiful garden, and a state park attached.  Sam Hill knew Queen Marie of Romania quite well, and ended up (not quite sure how all this worked) with a whole bunch of Marie’s stuff – her memorabilia, her traveling throne, her portrait collection, gifts from her grandmother, Queen Victoria. 

 

 

Oh, and Sam knew Loie Fuller too.  And ended up with quite a few of her things. 

 

 

Have I mentioned that all of this Byzantine treasure is on display in a drafty old house in a remote corner of Washington state, visited by few? 

 

 

I think a lot of people drive along that highway, above those really amazing Columbia Gorge bluffs, and suddenly catch sight of that big house and that bizarre circle of standing stones, and think: Did I really just see that?

 

 

But once you’ve caught sight of it and had time to wonder about it , it’s gone.  You’re in the wilderness again.

 

 

This must be a metaphor for something.  Let me think.

 


 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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