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Near the town site of Maryhill, Washington, three miles east of Maryhill Museum of Art, stands a replica of Stonehenge built by Samuel Hill. Dedicated in 1918 to the servicemen of Klickitat County, Washington who died in the service of their country during the Great War, Hill's Stonehenge Memorial stands as a monument to heroism and peace. Samuel Hill was the son of Quaker parents and in 1907 acquired 5,300 acres in southwest Washington and planned to turn it into a Quaker farming community. The farming enterprise never materialized and his dream eventually gave way to a cattle ranch. His chateau-style "farm house" was turned into Maryhill Museum of Art in 1917.
During World War I, Hill delivered relief supplies to Belgium and Russia, and reinforced his interest in travel. While in England, he made his first trip to see Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain where he was told that the structure was believed to be constructed by Druids as a place of human sacrifice.
Hill concluded there was a similarity between the loss of life in this, the greatest of human wars, and the sacrifices of ancient Stonehenge and planned to build a replica of it on the cliffs of the Columbia as a reminder of those sacrifices and the "incredible folly" of the war.
The architecture and precise plan of the structure was guided by leading authorities on archaeology, astronomy, and engineering who combined their knowledge to duplicate, as nearly as possible, the original size and design of the ancient Neolithic ruin in England.
The original idea was to construct the Stonehenge Memorial out of local stone, much in the manner of the England's Stonehenge. However, when the local rock proved unsatisfactory, it was decided to create the Memorial out of reinforced concrete. The rough, hand-hewn looking texture was created by lining the wooden forms with crumpled tin.
Fortunately for Hill, June 8, 1918 was an important astronomic event. On that date a total eclipse of the sun had been predicted with the best viewing point in the vicinity of Goldendale, Washington. Consequently, some of the best astronomers of the day were in Klickitat County. Professor Campbell, of Lick Observatory, at the University of California, agreed to fix the position of the altar stone. Unlike the ancient Stonehenge, it was aligned to the astronomical horizon rather than the actual midsummer sunrise. This resulted in a three degree difference from the original structure. Combined with a five degree difference in latitude and the manner in which the surrounding hills obscure the actual horizon, Stonehenge Memorial is difficult to use as an astronomical calendar.
The altar stone was dedicated one month later on July 4, 1918. A plaque, placed on the altar stone reads:
"To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country. This monument is erected in 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."
The monument was finally completed in 1929 and re-dedicated on Memorial Day of that year. Thirteen local service men were honored by having their names placed on the pillars of the Stonehenge Memorial.
Samuel Hill died in 1931 and his body was cremated and the ashes placed in a crypt just below the Stonehenge Memorial. The original crypt, intended for a man who built for the ages, deteriorated in the next twenty-five years and was replaced in 1955 by a granite monument bearing his epitaph: "Samuel Hill: Amid nature's great unrest, he sought rest."
Stonehenge Memorial lies at the original Maryhill town site, three miles east of the Maryhill Museum just off Highway 14. Samuel Hill's crypt is located a short walk southwest of Stonehenge on a bluff overlooking the river.
February 21st, 2012
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