8 Fun Ways to Explore History in the Islands
May is National Historic Preservation Month, but history lives here all year round in the San Juans
With three island historical museums, the San Juan Island National Historical Park and 18 National Historic Registry sites, there are dozens of attractions for the history buff or the merely curious to explore. The month of May is a great time to plan a visit, during History Lives Here: National Historic Preservation Month.
Voices of the Islands - Historians
1. visit the Lopez island historical museum
Learn how Lopez Island’s relatively flat landscape, abundant fishing, mild weather and fertile land was a draw for coastal tribes for thousands of years. The first non-Native settler came to Lopez around 1850 and settled what is now Lopez Village. In 1870, just 70 people lived on Lopez; by 1930, 134 farms were growing apples, cherries, apricots, plums and vegetables, as well as raising sheep and cattle. Today, a community of about 2,400 people call Lopez home.
2. Check out the Lopez Island Library
The library began its life at the end of World War
3. Learn about pioneer life at the Orcas Island Historical Museum
The museum has a permanent collection of approximately 6,000 objects, paper documents
4. Stop by the Crow Valley School
Nestled at the foot of Turtleback Mountain, the one-room schoolhouse was built in 1888 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was painstakingly restored by previous owners Richard Schneider and Bud McBride who spent hundreds of hours researching and carefully rehabilitating the wooden structure.
5. Get artsy at Orcas Island Artworks
A treasured Orcas Island destination for visitors and locals alike, the co-op gallery in Olga represents forty-five Orcas Island artists and craftspeople, working in pottery, sculpture, jewelry, glass, wood, paintings, prints, wearable art, fiber and more. As the gallery is owned and operated by the artists themselves, there is the unique opportunity to meet one or more of them on any given day.
6. Learn about coast SALISH art
Enjoy the waterfront walk down to the Port of Friday Harbor, appreciating the dramatic Coast Salish house posts that stand in Jack Fairweather Park to welcome visitors and the many boats from around the world. The piece is titled "Interaction" and was created by Salish Coast artist Susan Point, a member of the Musqueum Tribe, as a symbol of friendship and an
7. Enjoy the Whale Museum
Housed in an 1892 Odd Fellows Hall overlooking Friday Harbor, The Whale Museum is the local center for Salish Sea stewardship and research since 1979. Many early notable events took place at the Hall, including the year-long murder trial of Richard Straub, the only person ever executed in San Juan County. Now you can see a young orca skeleton, watch free videos, and find treasures in the museum gift shop. Upstairs, visit the Gallery of Whales and learn how you can adopt an Orca!
8. Step back in time at Lime Kiln Point State Park Lighthouse
This 36-acre park boasts an iconic lighthouse on the west side of San Juan Island and is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. The lighthouse was built in 1919 and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in the Haro Strait. The park, which features a richly diverse environment, includes the remnants and landscapes of a history filled with change, along the rocky shoreline and through the wooded uplands. Interpretive programs, an interpretive center with gift shop and lighthouse tours are available during the summer months. And you won't be the only visitors there - pods of orca whales are known to swim by the lighthouse looking for food. That's why it's also called "Whale Watch Park!" Minke whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and more can also be spotted off shore.
9. Experience history at the San Juan Island Historical society and museum
About a mile up from the ferry terminal, on the grounds of the former 445-acre James King farm, the San Juan Islands Historical Society & Museum consists of eight buildings, four from the original farm: the 1894 farmhouse, carriage house, root cellar
Sleep in History
Historic hotels, quaint bed & breakfast inns, or what's-old-is-new-again glamping - you can find all sorts of options for fun accommodations on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Islands.