Mary Hill Museum, Goldendale Washington

Pros: Historical, Scenic, Fun!

Cons: (Just about) in the middle of nowhere

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, like a lone, stone sentinel, stands Mary Hill Museum.

This Beaux Arts style mansion was originally intended to be the private residence of entrepreneur, Samuel Hill ( 1857-1931). Instead, he decided to turn it into ” a museum for the public good, and for the betterment of French art in the far Northwest of America”.  And turn it into a museum he certainly did!

Mr. Hill obviously knew people in high places. In 1926 the ‘museum’ was visited by Queen Marie of Romania. So enthralled by Mr. Hills’ effort, the structure and surrounding scenery, she promised to ship him some ‘personal mementoes’ when she arrived back home in Romania. Keeping good on her word, the first shipment of more than one-hundred artifacts arrived almost a year later. Included were Romanian folk objects, Russian icons and diverse textiles.

Soon after, the Queen’s two daughters, both queens themselves, donated items of great value to the museum.  Elisabetha, Queen Consort of Greece (the eldest daughter), donated several Tanagra figurines ( seen below) and Cypriot amphorae. Tanagra figurines were very popular in the 19th century, representing female fantasies in terracotta. Later the Queen’s second daughter, Queen Consort of the Serbs, Croates and Slovenes, gifted the museum with three silver filigree items.

 After Queen Marie’s death in 1938, the museum was bequeathed her gold throne, Byzantine-inspired furniture, and a replica of her coronation crown.
Many items and collections were purchased by Mr. Hill himself – more than seventy plaster and bronze sculptures by Rodin (The Burghers, The Thinker, The Gates of Hell), European and American original paintings by William McGregor, Paxton, Gammell, Haseltine, Leighton, and Blashfield.   Also, American indian art – baskets and beadwork,  three-hundred chess sets, and Art-Nouveaux-era glass by Emile Galle and Ren’e Lalique.
The Thinker by Rodin – 1902 ( one of twenty-eight castings).
The thirty-four acre property also has an outdoor sculpture park with various works of art by many Pacific Northwest artists, and a replica of Stonehenge, commissioned by Hill, and dedicated as a memorial to World War I casualties.
I’ve been to the museum twice. Walking into the Great Hall, and seeing Queen Marie’s wedding dress with a train so long it has sewn-in handles, is mind-boggling and jaw-dropping. Really, you just don’t want to leave, ever.
Mary Hill Museum is located in Washington State just over the Columbia River, in Goldendale, Washington.
P.S.  Oh, and one other minor incidental – watch for rattlesnakes – this is desert-country, you know.

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