San Juan Islands History
From tales of early Coast Salish settlements and Captain Vancouver’s explorations, to a near international war started over the death of a pig, there is plenty of history to discover in the San Juan Islands. Visit the century-old Roche Harbor Resort that played a major role in the industrial development of the West Coast, or the historic Moran Mansion at Rosario Resort. Wander Friday Harbor, one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. Visit farms following traditions of the past, yet with modern crops and technology. Sail aboard a historic schooner. Relax and imagine yourself in a simpler time.
With three island historical museums, the San Juan Island National Historical Park and 18 National Historic Registry sites, there are dozens of additional attractions for the history buff or the merely curious to explore. The month of May is a great time to plan a visit, during National Historic Preservation Month’s "History Lives Here: Heritage Month in the San Juan Islands." You can also learn more about island history by taking the self-guided Friday Harbor Historic Buildings Tour.
The Orcas Island Historical Museum is the only object-based, interpretive heritage facility for Orcas Island, with a permanent collection comprised of approximately 6,000 objects, paper documents and photographs. In the 1950s and 1960s, various island families donated six original homestead cabins, built during the 1870s and the 1890s, to the Society. Volunteers disassembled the structures at their original sites, then moved, reconstructed and linked the structures together to create the main museum facility. The 100-year-old cabins serve as a space for interpreting island history as told through the life stories and material culture of the Native American and early European-American settlers of this area. [more...]
On the grounds of the former 445-acre James King farm, the SJIHM consists of eight buildings, four from the original farm: the 1894 farmhouse, carriage house, root cellar and milk house. The original San Juan County Jail, a barn, a log cabin and resource center round out the remaining structures. Stroll the grounds, enjoy a picnic and step back in time. [more...]
The Lopez Island Historical Society & Museum is located in the heart of Lopez Village, and maintains a huge photo and document archive, where you can search for long-lost relatives or vintage images of your island home. Along with permanent First Islanders and Natural History displays, you may see exhibits on farming, fishing, place name origins or island communities. [more...]
The San Juan Island National Historical Park, including American Camp and English Camp, was created in 1966 based upon an idea: that individuals and nations can solve their problems peacefully without resorting to violence. For it was here in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a pig shot by an American farmer. Actually, it was a bit more complicated than that.. [more...]
Friday Harbor's historic structures are unique remnants of Washington's early history. Spared by the fires that, by 1900, had swept through most cities and towns in the state, Friday Harbor still has many of the original wood-frame buildings typical of the territorial era. Self-guided walking tour brochures are available at local bookstores. Free guided tours every Saturday in May and October. [more...]