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."

Lopez Island
Lopez Island Historical Society & MuseumSee all information about this member
28 Washburn Pl.
Lopez Island
(360) 468-2049
Lopez Island Historical Society & Museum Group of People

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...]

San Juan Island
San Juan Island National Historical ParkSee all information about this member
650 Mullis Street, Suite 100
Friday Harbor
(360) 378-2902
(360) 378-2240
Events National Park San Juan Island

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...]

Orcas Island
OlgaSee all information about this member
Olga Rd.
Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce - Olga Daze Celebration

In the tiny hamlet of Olga on Orcas Island, there is a small post office, a small dock and beach, which act as a Marine State Park for Moran State Park, which is just a mile or so up the road. Cafe Olga and Orcas Island Artworks artist co-op are currently conducting business in Eastsound because of a fire in the building, originally a strawberry packing plant that shipped fruit to the mainland until the early 1900s. [more...]

Orcas Island
EastsoundSee all information about this member
Main St. and North Beach Rd.
(360) 376-2273
Crow Valley Pottery in Eastsound Shopping Orcas Island

Eastsound, at the head of the large fjord of East Sound, is Orcas Island's largest village, and the hub of business and activity on this, the largest of the San Juan Islands. Grab a cup of coffee and wander the streets of this little burg any time of year, and you'll see galleries featuring local artists, farm-to-table restaurants, massage and yoga studios, as well as stylish boutiques, excellent bakeries, a well-stocked bookstore and food co-op. [more...]

San Juan Island
Town of Friday Harbor See all information about this member
60 Second Street
Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor by Mark Gardner Photography

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...]

Orcas Island
West SoundSee all information about this member
Deer Harbor Rd.
West Sound
West Sound Cafe, Casual Dining, Orcas Island

Like many of Orcas Island's many small villages, West Sound has been settled for centuries, first by Coast Salish tribes, then homesteaders, fishermen and boaters. The Orcas Island Yacht Club is situated on what was once some of the best orchard land on Orcas Island, and looks out over a charming marina towards the privately owned Picnic Island. There are several bed and breakfast inns in the area, as well as the Kingfish Inn and West Sound Café, and Red Rabbit Farm, which serves farm-to-table dinners throughout the summer. [more...]

San Juan Island
San Juan Historical MuseumSee all information about this member
405 Price St.
Friday Harbor
(360) 378-3949
San Juan Historical Museum - new front photo

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...]

Orcas Island
Deer HarborSee all information about this member
Deer Harbor Rd.
Deer Harbor
Marina, Boating, Orcas Island

Tucked between two peninsulas on Orcas Island's west side, Deer Harbor is a scenic 20-minute drive from the ferry landing where you’ll find one of the few sandy beaches in the Islands. At its heart lies the Deer Harbor Marina. In this tiny gem of a village, choose from a small but quality selection of lodging, from cozy B&B's to individual cabins overlooking the marina. Get picnic food, grilled burgers, sandwiches and snacks at the Dock Store or enjoy a casual dinner at Deer Harbor Inn Restaurant. [more...]

Orcas Island
Orcas Island Historical MuseumSee all information about this member
181 North Beach Rd
(360) 376-4849
Historical Museum History Orcas Island

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...]