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"Eccentric Estate and Vinyards and Wineries" Maryhill by glabah

Maryhill Travel Guide: 19 reviews and 91 photos

and Home of Wind Turbines... the NEW Inland Empire

When the railroad reached Spokane, Washington the famous statement was issued that Spokane would become the hub of a "vast Inland Empire" and thus the huge and relatively sparsely populated area east of the Cascade mountains has been for over 100 years known by the name "Inland Empire".

While the borders of this "Inland Empire" have always been poorly defined, it is not too much of a stretch to consider the area around Maryhill to be towards the southern end of this Inland Empire region. It does share the dry grassland ecosystem that so much of the rest of eastern Oregon and Washington share including Spokane.

The area did become very important for growing various crops, but the reality is there isn't really enough water to support much in the southern end of this "Inland Empire". In addition, farming soon became mechanized, and the really important industrial cities became the port cities of the west coast. The concept of the "Inland Empire" really never happened as it was thought of in the 1890s as agriculture became less and less of an employer. Many farmers in the area struggled for decades because of the lack of water and the expense of getting the crops to market, even with the river and the railroad.

However, the Columbia River Gorge has vast quantities of another resource: wind. The hot air of the Great Basin and the cool moist air of the Pacific Ocean create a force that defies all description, and most of this force is channeled through the narrow Columbia River Gorge creating a very large wind tunnel. In the 1970s a few pioneering experiments were done with modern wind turbines near Goldendale (just north of Maryhill), but with huge amounts of cheap hydropower still available the big advances in wind turbines happened elsewhere. However, today vast areas of the eastern end of the Columbia River have been sprouting new crops of Wind Turbines by the hundred.

Not a single wind turbines was visible from Maryhill in August of 2007 but today there are uncountable numbers of them on both sides of the Columbia River.

Thus, the "Inland Empire" has found a crop that provides its promised land and farmers in the region can breathe a little easier with the additional income.

It Started as an Eccentric Estate

What is now Maryhill started as an estate built by Samuel Hill for Mary Hill. Common local belief is that she did not like the remote location, and stayed back east. The home that started it all overlooks the Columbia River and the dry plains and hills of eastern Oregon and Washington.

The estate house now serves as an art museum, naturally named the Maryhill Museum of Art, but the grounds are open to the public without admission charge and are a good place to stop and rest during a long drive through the Columbia Gorge. The grounds of the museum feature great views of the Columbia River and this dry section of eastern Oregon and Washington. They also feature rest rooms, a drinking fountain, picnic areas, a sculpture garden, and several miles further east there is the large Stonehenge concrete sculpture as part of a scenic overlook of the river and is not part of the sculpture garden (and in fact is three miles / 5 km east of the Maryhill Museum and its sculpture garden).

The community surrounding the estate has developed a wine and vinyard industry, and some people might spend an entire day just visiting the wineries.

The museum hosts an annual arts festival, generally in August of every year. It is a fairly low key event and thus draws artists that don't have access to many other art shows.

Samuel Hill, the eccentric man who constructed Maryhill and its nearby replica of Stonehenge, would probably approve of this use of his estate, considering his taste for eccentric and progressive ideals.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Nice place to visit while in this part of the Columbia Gorge
  • Cons:Not a destination in and of itself, except during annual art fair
  • In a nutshell:Include Maryhill on a visit to this part of the Gorge, but don't make it your reason to come
  • Last visit to Maryhill: Oct 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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