Maybe Days 28 to 32 or something like that...
We're currently in Bellingham, Washington, but have been busy with our usual catching up with friends, family, and medical stuff. We had a few days in Yakima visiting my middle brother and his family, and wading our way through a year's worth of mail. So I haven't finished blogging about our travels north from Tucson. Here goes:
We drove north from Mount Hood, and drove along a small part of the Columbia River Gorge. As I mentioned in the previous post about the river gorges, both canyons and gorges are created when a river carves through the rock on both sides of a river. Canyons are much wider, and gorges tend to be narrower and closer to the actual river, not spread out far into the distance.
The Columbia River Gorge is beautiful and varied due to the climate differences east and west of the mountains. We drove through a section east of the mountains, so the vegetation was typical of the high desert, even though it was right next to a river. Really, with the solid rock river bed, all that water stays in the river and doesn't seep out to provide water for the vegetation on the banks of the river. However, modern irrigation funnels some of the water to farms and vineyards, so there is plenty of green from the agriculture in the area. But the native plants are dry grasses and wildflowers, somewhat stunted trees, and other things that grow among the rocks and arid land.
We arrived in the small town of Goldendale, population 3,407 as of 2010. The town really is pretty small but rather cute, with some old Victorian and Craftsman homes dating back to the turn of the last century, as well as modern buildings and several hotels. It's the county seat of Klickitat County (pronounced CLICK-it-tat for you non-Washingtonians), and dates back to 1872.
My purpose for staying in this tiny town is that it's the nearest place to stay for a visit to the Maryhill Museum. So the following day, that was my activity. Maryhill is an easy nine mile drive south, overlooking the Columbia River.
Maryhill is a local oddity that is best described by the "Atlas Obscura," an atlas of obscure and odd places worldwide. Their description is "a French chateau, failed utopian community, add museum, and Stonehenge replica in rural Washington State." And that really sums up Maryhill in one quick sentence. www.atlasobscura.com/places/maryhill-museum-and-stonehenge
But Maryhill is so much more.
Lewis and Clark passed this area in October 1805, and likely saw how beautiful the bluffs are overlooking the Columbia River. Nearly 100 years later, Sam Hill came through and decided to build a Beaux Arts mansion and Quaker community at this site.
Sam Hill is not the Sam Hill of the phrase "what the Sam Hill" - he wasn't born when that phrase was first used in a newspaper. Our Sam was born in North Carolina in 1857. His family, pacifist Quakers, relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, during the US Civil War.
Sam Hill graduated from Haverford College, having studied Latin, Greek, French, German, mathematics, science, political science, rhetoric, English literature, and who knows what else. He went on to attend Harvard to receive a second Bachelor's degree, majoring in Latin and history, where he studied under Henry Cabot Lodge, US Senator who is best known for his views and legislation on foreign policy.
Sam returned to Minneapolis to practice law, and won several lawsuits against the Great Northern Railway. This drew the attention of railway magnate James J. Hill, no relation, who in turn hired Sam Hill to represent the railroad company.
Sam married James' daughter Mary, and they had two children. Sam travelled extensively through Europe, including a journey across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad which was not quite complete. Sam's restless spirit brought him to the Pacific Northwest, where he began building a mansion in Seattle. Mary, however, was not happy with the west, and returned to Minneapolis. Sam visited, but the marriage became more and more strained.
Sam continued with his trips to Europe and his explorations around Washington and Oregon. He also invested in a variety of fledging businesses, such as the Seattle Gas and Electric Company.
So, Sam decided he wanted to build a mansion in the style of the French chateaus and mansions he had visited. He envisioned a peaceful agrarian utopia built on Quaker ideals. He bought land along the Columbia River and started building both the mansion and the farm, naming the community Maryhill for his daughter, Mary Hill. However, the land he had chosen was too far east to receive the rains off the Pacific, so the farming community floundered. Sam lost interest for a bit, and focused on building roads on this vast estate.
Sam saw no reason that this developing part of the United States had horrible muddy and rutted roads rather than the paved and tree-lined boulevards he saw throughout the cities of Europe. Building roads in the Pacific Northwest became Sam's new mission.
Once his Maryhill roads were built, he used these roads as a model to show both the Washington and Oregon legislators that it was possible to design and create paved roads along the Columbia River Gorge.
So residents of both states really do have Sam to thank for the roads and highways we have that connect us to the rest of the continent.
Sam established friendships with people all through Europe, and it helped that he was fluent in a variety of languages. Some of his more notable friends were Queen Marie of Romania (and granddaughter of Queen Victoria), her daughter Maria or Marija who later married King Alexander and thus became Queen of Yugoslavia, and Loie Fuller who was an innovative dancer at the Folies Bergere in Paris.
Loie Fuller convinced Sam to finish building his mansion at Maryhill and turn it into a museum. Loie (pronounced Low-ee) was good friends with French sculptor Auguste Rodin and, over a period of time, was able to not only obtain some of Rodin's working models for this museum effort, but also some of his writings and watercolors! I mean, really - a not-yet-completed museum in obscure Washington state in the early 1900s, becoming the home to Rodin's actual sculptures, not copies but originals??? Unheard of, and yet it happened.
Loie Fuller used masses of diaphanous fabrics to create swirling, twirling, ever-changing dances that bewitched French theatre-goers. Of her, Rodin wrote "Madame Loie Fuller, whom I have admired for a number of years, is, to my mind, a woman of genius, with all the resources of talent . . . I fall far below what I ought to say about this great personality; my language is inept for that, but my artistic heart is grateful to her . . ."
Loie introduced Rodin and his sculpture to US audiences in 1903, loaning works from her own collection to Rodin's exhibition in New York. In 1914, Loie met Alma de Bretteville Spreckles, wife of an American sugar magnate and art collector, and introduced Alma to Rodin. Mrs. Spreckels, a resident of San Francisco, introduced Loie to Sam Hill. Ten years later, Mrs. Spreckels made a gift of 31 Rodin sculptures to the city of San Francisco.
Alma of the unfortunate last name shows up later in the history of Maryhill - she helped finish the museum after Sam's death, and received furnishings designed and made by Queen Marie of Romania. It seems as if everyone knew everyone in this crowd of philanthropists and art lovers!
Loie Fuller not only enchanted Auguste Rodin. She was asked by sculptor Pierre Roche to model for two medallions for the façade of the Théâtre de Tulle in Corréze. Roche created a model of the dancer's face in the manner of Greek theatrical masks, Comedy and Drama. These plaster masks were exhibited at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1901.
Of the sculptures by Rodin at the Maryhill Museum, there are several that are notable (at least to me). One is a small, reduced version of The Thinker. This is a plaster cast made from the original clay sculpture, and is apparently the only one known to still exist. There is a pencil inscription below the left foot: "To Loie - Rodin."
According to Rodin's words, The Thinker was originally meant to be the poet Dante, as part of the larger sculpture The Gates of Hell. The larger project was never realized, and the sculpture became Rodin's concept of "another thinker, a naked man, seated upon a rock, his feet drawn under him, his fist against his teeth, he dreams. The fertile thought slowly elaborates itself within his brain. He is no longer a dreamer, he is creator."
Rodin's Caryatid Bearing Her Stone is another smaller version of a sculpture, rendered in terracotta (red earthenware clay) and plaster. Caryatids were Greek architectural supports, young women standing upright who were used as pillars or columns. I had seen the caryatids on a temple on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and always wondered how anyone could possibly think it was moral, ethical, or even artistic to use young women to hold up a building. Rodin's Caryatid has crumbled to the ground, struggling to hold up her building of stone, collapsing under this burden. To Rodin, this symbolizes physical suffering and mental anguish, both inescapable human burdens. Rodin initially conceived of this Caryatid as part of the Gates of Hell, and he felt that she was one of his best compositions.
Rodin also created The Minotaur, shown here in the plaster model and then re-cast in bronze. The Minotaur was a Greek mythological creature who was half man half bull. According to the myth, each year seven maidens and seven youths were taken to Athens as a tribute. The Minotaur would devour these sacrificial young people. The sculptures represent the Minotaur with one of his unwilling victims. (And in the myth, Theseus slays the Minotaur.)
It is believed that Sam Hill purchased all but three of the Rodin sculptures now at Maryhill from Loie Fuller.
As if a floor full of Rodin models and statues wasn't enough, the museum continues on. Sam's friend Queen Marie of Romania donated all kinds of personal items, from furnishings she designed to silver filigree tea sets. Her eldest daughter, Elisabetha, former Queen Consort of Greece, donated ancient Greek terracotta figures and ceramic vessels. The list goes on and on, unexpected treasures and priceless family heirlooms alike.
One of my favorite exhibits at Maryhill Museum was the whimsical French Théâtre de la Mode. It is best described in the words of the informational signs:
"The year was 1945 and France celebrated the Allied victory at the end of World War II. Yet despite liberation, the country faced an urgent economic dilemma. After four years of German occupation, all commodities were in short supply, including food, fuel, and fabric. The French fashion houses, eager to participate in the revitalization of the French economy, conceived an idea to both rekindle their industry and raise funds for war relief.
"Robert Ricci, son of famed fashion designer Nina Ricci, proposed that the fashion houses create their collections in miniature, to be placed on twenty-seven-inch mannequins [68.6 cm] posed with elaborate stage sets. The Théâtre de la Mode - "Theatre of Fashion" - became a unique collaboration between leading French haute couturiers, artists, sculptors, theatre set and lighting designers, coiffeurs, jewelers, and fashion accessory artisans whose names included Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Balmain, Cocteau, and Cartier."
Don't you love it??? Such a very French fashion response to the issue of rebuilding their industry and raise funds for war relief!
"The Théâtre de la Mode first opened in Paris in March 1945, and there attracted nearly 100,000 visitors. The show then traveled to London, Barcelona, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Vienna - to triumphal welcomes by reigning monarchs, royalty, and ambassadors. Its final installations were in New York and San Francisco.
"After the Théâtre de la Mode tour ended in 1946, the jewelry that was made of precious metals and gemstones was returned to Paris but the costumed mannequins with their accessories remained in San Francisco. Through the efforts of art patroness Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the mannequins were acquired by Maryhill Museum in 1952. By that time, the original sets had been lost.
"The Théâtre de la Mode today consists of more than 150 mannequins and nine stage sets. The mannequins were sent to the Musée des Arts de la Mode in Paris in 1988, where they were extensively documented and restored. Nine of the original twelve sets were also re-created. Many individuals who had worked on the project in 1945-46 were still alive and much of the restoration was accomplished with the help of these original creators.
"A new exhibit of the restored Théâtre de la Mode opened to popular acclaim in the Louvre's Marsan Pavilion in 1990, the sight of its original installation. A second world-wide tour followed."
La Grotte Enchantée, The Enchanted Grotto, was designed by André Beaurepaire, the youngest artist commissioned to create a Théâtre de la Mode set. Beaurepaire (French, 1924-2012) was well-known as a painter, but also had a successful post-war career as a set designer. He designed sets for French director Jean Coctaeu, a Covent Garden ballet danced by Margot Fonteyn, as well as ballets featuring dancers such as Leslie Caron and Mikhail Baryshnikov (though obviously not together). "This Théâtre de la Mode set with its intricate imaginary black-and-white grotto has a surreal quality that enhances the luxurious fantasy of post-war evening dresses." Beaurepaire, still living in Paris, participated in the rebuilding of his set.
Le Palais-Royal, the Royal Palace, was designed by painter and set designer André Dignimont (French, 1891-1965). He was known for always wearing British attire, including a tweed cap and smoking a short English pipe. Of the designers first invited to work on the 1945 Théâtre de la Mode sets, Dignimont was the most active in French literary circles. A close friend of many writers such as Colette, he illustrated works of French authors including Honoré de Balzac, Emile Zola, and British author Oscar Wilde. Dignimont had just finished the decor for a Paris Opera production when he began work on this Théâtre de la Mode set. "The Palais-Royal, an ensemble of buildings and archways surrounding a garden, is a former royal palace with a long and celebrated history. At the time of the French Revolution and the First Empire, stylish women went there to purchase new fashions which they paraded around the garden while exchanging the latest political news and gossip."
It really was an unexpected treat, how fascinating this little obscure museum turned out to be. And what a wealth of objects housed therein! www.maryhillmuseum.org
But Sam, pacifist Quaker Sam, wasn't done with his vision. Sam had visited England's famous Stonehenge some time between 1914 and 1918, during World War I. He was told the legend believed at the time, that Stonehenge had been used for human sacrifice to pagan gods. Sam has been quoted as having said, "After all our civilization, the flower of humanity still is being sacrificed to the god of war on fields of battle." He was inspired to build a monument, a replica of Stonehenge, which became the first monument in the US to military personnel who gave their lives in World War I.
The Maryhill Stonehenge was built by Sam on a ledge overlooking the Columbia, a few miles distant from the Maryhill mansion. The "altar stone" was dedicated on July 4, 1918, and holds a plaque that says:
"In memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country, this monument is erected in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench."
(Hardly pacifist wording, methinks.)
There are also small plaques embedded in many of the larger upright "stones" bearing the names of those Klickitat men who perished in the war. Sam saw this re-creation of Stonehenge as a monument to these local men and their sacrifice.
Sam actually designed and engineered his Stonehenge like a modern road, using slabs of reinforced concrete. Imagine the ancient Druids using early to mid 20th century construction technology, and you get the idea: same-sized concrete blocks given a rock-like exterior, then cemented together to form the iconic megaliths of Stonehenge.
Sam later used a similar approach to built the Peace Arch in Peace Arch Park, just north of Bellingham. The Peace Arch monument straddles the US-Canadian border, and is a monument to the peaceful border and friendship between the two nations.
Sam Hill passed away in 1931, and is buried some 50 yards (or meters) from his Stonehenge, on a ledge further down the bluffs. He chose his own grave site, often skipped by visitors, but with the view he loved.
Whew! A long blog, but it really was an incredible museum. A testament to the incredible life of one man, who made a huge difference in this region of the world.
"Roll & Play" by Alisa Looney, 2007; powder-coated and flame cut steel, 36" x 75" x 48".
Above: Our route through Washington state.
Left: Our route from Tucson, AZ to Bellingham, WA.