Where in the Sam Hill is the Maryhill Museum?

Sam Hill, the globe-trotting businessman, builder of monuments, advocate of roads and founder of the Maryhill Museum of Art, lived the last decades of his life in Washington state. Photos courtesy of Maryhill Museum of Art


Queen Marie of Romania, grandchild of Britain’s Queen Victoria, was a good friend of Sam Hill and donated royal furniture and other artifacts to the museum, courtesy Maryhill Museum of Art

Although still unfinished, the museum was dedicated in 1926 by Sam Hill’s friend, Queen Marie of Romania (the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria), in a ceremony that received national attention and was attended by more than 2,000 people.

In 1931, Hill, on his way to address the Oregon legislature on behalf of the Good Roads Association, became ill and died three weeks later at the age of 73.

Hill’s death and the drawn-out settlement of his estate delayed progress on the museum, which was filled with unpacked crates of art. In 1937, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the wife of San Francisco sugar magnate Adolf Spreckels and a friend of Hill’s, took up the task of finishing the museum. She was elected to the newly-formed board of trustees and donated artwork from her personal collection. Under her guidance, the museum was opened to the public on Sam Hill’s birthday, May 13, 1940. Maryhill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

In addition to the Maryhill Museum of Art, Sam Hill is remembered for establishing roadside monuments, including the Peace Arch and the Stonehill Memorial. The Peace Arch, on the border between Blaine, Washington and Douglas in British Columbia, was dedicated in 1921 by Sam Hill to celebrate a century of peace between the two nations. The Peace Arch is the only international gateway ever erected in the interest of peace among nations. Three miles east of the Maryhill Museum, just off Highway 14 and near the original Maryhill town site, stands a full-scale replica of England's Stonehenge built by Sam Hill. The memorial was built as the nation’s first WWI memorial and was dedicated in 1918 to the servicemen of the area who died in the service of their country during the Great War. Samuel Hill’s crypt is located a short walk southwest of Stonehenge on a bluff overlooking the river.

The euphemism for swearing, “Sam Hill,” is often attributed to the Northwest’s Samuel Hill and his wide-ranging activities, but history says it harkens back to before he was born. However, our Sam Hill—the perpetual promoter—did little to dissuade others that he was not the inspiration.

The Maryhill Museum of Art

The Maryhill Museum of Art is situated in a park-like setting of 26 acres—just a small sliver of the museum’s expansive 5,300-acre grounds— overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

The historic, three-story Beaux Arts mansion was designed by the nationally-recognized architectural firm Hornblower & Marshall of Washington, D.C. The adjoining Mary & Bruce Stevenson Wing opened in May 2012. The buildings and grounds of Maryhill offer expansive views of the Columbia River Gorge below and Mount Hood in the distance, along with an outdoor sculpture park featuring large-scale works by Northwest artists.


Maryhill Museum of Arts boasts more than 80 works of art by the sculptor Auguste Rodin, European and American paintings, unique chess sets, Native American artifacts, and the renowned Théâtre de la Mode, which features small-scale mannequins attired in designer fashions of post-World War II France, photo courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art

Fodor’s travel guide provides this review of the museum: A wonderfully eclectic mix of artworks, including the largest assemblage of Rodin works outside France; posters, glasswork and ephemera related to the modern-dance pioneer Loïe Fuller; an impressive cache of Native American artifacts; furniture and art that belonged to Hill companion, Queen Marie of Romania; an art nouveau glass collection; an extensive chess collection; and a large collection of mostly Victorian-era European and American landscape paintings…they're all housed within the walls of a grandiose mansion built rather improbably in the middle of nowhere by Sam Hill, the man who spearheaded the development of a scenic highway through the Columbia Gorge.

The Maryill Museum of Art is located at 35 Maryhill Museum Drive, Goldendale, WA 98620. For more information, call 509-773-3733 or visit www.maryhillmuseum.org.

Information for this article is provided by the Maryhill Museum of Art