Let’s Talk About: Sam’s Hill

Way up on a Washington bluff overlooking the Columbia River, a huge stone castle pokes in and out of view as you zoom along I-82 in Oregon. “What the Sam Hill?” You’ve heard that expression, haven’t you? 

There is no population center for miles and yet here’s this castle, Sam Hill’s mansion. Hill was an “inspired lunatic”  and the son-in-law of railroad baron, James J. Hill. Sam bought 7000 acres of scrubland on a high bluff overlooking the mighty Columbia River in 1907. He intended to erect a glorious home for his wife, Mary. 

“No way!” she must have said when told about her proposed new home. She never left Europe to come see “her” castle home. 

After 20 years, the mansion/castle was till unfinished. Over the years, the place remained unoccupied and unfinished. People wandering through the deserts of Washington and Oregon would look up to see this enormous abandoned building and say “What the Sam Hill?” 

Or so the story is told. 

Today the mansion is part of Maryhill State Park and there is lots to see and do at the park. Do stop on your next trip to Portland. While you’re there, on the Washington side, take a snap of time to visit Stonehenge just three miles east of Maryhill….

Also built by Sam Hill, this replica of England’s famous Stonehenge was begun in 1918 to honor the heroism of Klickitat County’s soldiers in that Great War. Finished in 1929, it’s both a monument to heroic dead but a monument dedicated to peace. 

2 comments on “Let’s Talk About: Sam’s Hill

  1. Kathleen Weddle Sizer says:

    I graduated from Goldendale High School so am familiar with Sam Hill, his home and Stonehenge. His wife Mary did not like the area. Queen Marie of Romania and close friend did visit and left her artifacts to the museum that the home became. There was even a famous sculpture by Rodin there but it was stolen over 10 years ago (not found yet). It is a hidden gem of a museum. My daughter was married there at the museum.

  2. Years ago I took a “museology” class at the UW as part of my anthropology studies. It was used as an example of the importance of good boards, and how an irresponsible one can really hurt an institution.

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