Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Romania.
What possible connection could there be between a road builder, a Follies Bergere dancer, a Romanian Queen, a sugar heiress, Stonehenge, and a one of a kind art collection?
What in the Sam Hill may have been a polite persons way of avoiding the word "hell" in the 1800s, but it was also the name of a legendary road builder. The first paved road in the Northwest United States wasn't built to reach a major city such as Portland or Seattle. Instead it was built by Samuel Hill between 1909 and 1913 in an isolated part of the Columbia River Gorge where he built his Maryhill estate that is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. A devout Quaker, Hill also built an exact replica of Stonehenge nearby as a War Memorial to honor the men lost in WW I.
No longer used to access the area, the historic Maryhill Loops Road is open for walkers (about a two hour hike), bikers, and skate boarders year-round. Once a year to celebrate the May 13 birthday of Hill, the road is open to drivers on the nearest weekend to that date with many car clubs taking part in the scenic drive.
The exhibits of the permanent collections of the Maryhill Museum represent the eclectic friendships cultivated by the museum's founder. Turning the Sam's castle home on the Columbia River into a world-class art museum came about through Hill's friendship with the modern dancer Loïe Fuller who provided the genesis of the collection including several works of her friend Auguste Rodin. Sam's dear friend, Marie of Romania, contributed Orthodox icons and memorabilia of her life. But it was Loïe who convinced her friend Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of a San Francisco sugar magnate, to donate European and American paintings and her magnificent collection of object d'art from the palace of the Queen of Romania, making the collection of Romanian art and artifcacts truly one-of-a-kind.
The Maryhill Museum sits on a 6,000 acre site that overlooks the Columbia River Gorge and includes not only the museum proper but the Grand Lawn, shady picnic grounds, the east lawn, the Sculpture and Rose gardens, the Lewis and Clark Overlook and Native Plant Garden, the North Lawns and Entrance Drive. The peacocks were added in the late 1970s to the delight of its visitors each year. The grounds are also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including flickers, crows, turkey, quail, black birds, raptors, fox, raccoon, and an occasional coyote or bobcat. The site is an official site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and was recently listed on Sun and Sage Loop site of the Great Washington State Birding Trail by Audubon Washington.