The Stonehenge of Washington
Columbia River Gorge
The Stonehenge replica was the creation of one man – Sam Hill. He was a man of great imagination and creative thinking. He built the beautiful mansion nearby, now the home of Maryhill Museum of Art. He helped build the original highway that lines the Columbia River Gorge and takes you beneath Multnomah Falls. He was also a great traveler who had recently returned from a trip to England. He was in England in April 1914 – just as that country had entered the War in France fighting the Germans. They all thought the war would be over by Christmas, but four years later, it was still raging and the loss of life horrendous. Although Sam Hill supported the allied cause, he was a Quaker and a pacifist and he wanted to make a statement.
Why build a replica of the iconic Stonehenge? At the time it was built, it was widely believed that Stonehenge was probably a site of ancient human sacrifice. To Sam Hill, it seemed an appropriate image to replicate as his memorial to the fallen soldiers of WW1.
The Washington replica was originally meant to be built of locally quarried stone, but a more easily accessible option was used instead. Using a pour-in-place concrete and designed and aligned to replicate the original monument as best they could. Folded tin was pressed into the concrete to replicate that effect of stonework.
He wanted to create a memorial – and a statement to the world – honoring the loss of soldiers from the area near his home. He had built the grand mansion he named Maryhill and located the memorial on a bluff just three miles from the house. His Stonehenge was dedicated on July 4, 1918 with the laying of the altar stone, although the war was still four months from being over. The altar stone was dedicated 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.
It took years to finish – it was finally completed and a dedication ceremony was held in 1929. The design chosen represents what Stonehenge appeared when it was first built – not as a fallen ruin as it is today. The site is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and the site is free to visit. Sam Hill’s ashes were interred in a crypt below the monument. After 25 years, the crypt had deteriorated and now all that can be seen is a plaque placed there in 1955:
“Samuel Hill: Amid nature’s great unrest, he sought rest.”
The alignment of the memorial is not meant to be aligned with the solstice sunrise, but is rather aligned with the astronomical horizon, and thus is not where you might find the sun aligned perfectly just like in the movies. It is still a magical place and well worth your visit. Visit with reverence – it is a memorial to the young men who sacrificed their lives to fight in a war in which they had no stake. They fought to stand against an ideology – greed and the thirst for power should not win, no matter where it happens. Visit and look out over the dramatic view those soldiers knew so well, and were never to see again. It is a memorial both hopeful and somber. And that makes it magical.
Visit the Columbia Gorge and see the Maryhill Museum of Art and the Stonehenge Memorial on one of these river cruises:
Portland to Clarkston
- 10 Nights
- May 21, 2024,May 31, 2024
- From $8,625
- American Jazz
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