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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Worth preserving’: Klickitat County’s Stonehenge monument selected for National Register of Historic Places

The Stonehenge replica near Goldendale, Wash., was built as a World War I memorial. The monument above the Columbia River Gorge draws around 30.000 visitors per year.  (Shutterstock)
The Stonehenge replica near Goldendale, Wash., was built as a World War I memorial. The monument above the Columbia River Gorge draws around 30.000 visitors per year. (Shutterstock)

The significance of the concrete, steel and tin facsimile of the ancient British monument Stonehenge near Goldendale, Washington, likely came from a mistake.

“Some of these stones mark the summer and winter solstice,” reads an article in the May 26, 1918, edition of The Spokesman-Review, announcing the plans for the Maryhill Stonehenge. “One stone, called the ‘altar stone,’ was probably used for the sacrifice of victims to a heathen god of war.”

This was the opinion of Samuel Hill, the philanthropist and railroad magnate who designed and funded the structure that sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, though scholars largely rejected that argument in the decades that followed. Still, the estimated 30,000 annual visitors of the site off State Route 14 will now be walking on ground designated by the National Register of Historic Places.

“It just gives it a certain kind of cachet,” said Colleen Schafroth, executive director of the Maryhill Museum of Art, which was also founded by Hill and maintains the Stonehenge grounds.

The listing on the historic register, which makes the site the 12th in Klickitat County and among more than 1,600 in Washington state, will allow the museum to also seek potential federal funding in its efforts to restore the monument. Boring samples conducted in the past year show water damage to the reinforced concrete that was used to build the Stonehenge, which wasn’t completed until 1929.

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“The wind whips through the air there,” Schafroth said. That, along with extreme temperature changes, is likely causing the damage to the concrete, she added.

Hill, a Quaker, intended the site to be a monument to Klickitat County’s dead during World War I. Fourteen soldiers are memorialized at the site, and Hill was cremated and buried beneath the memorial when he died in 1931. A nearby marker, the Klickitat County Veterans Memorial, lists the names of all locals killed in conflicts from World War II to the present. It was completed in 1995.

“It’s a sacred site for veterans,” Schafroth said.

Officials will test four renovation techniques on pillars within the Stonehenge during the next few months, Schafroth said. The most successful one against the weather will be used to gird the rest of the monument.

The museum worked with the San Francisco-based firm Architectural Resources Group to determine the necessary renovations and prepare the historic register nomination. The museum itself was added to the register in 1974.

The monument is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk all year. Schafroth said the museum may pursue a Historic Register marker as part of the renovations. Those wishing to donate to the renovation efforts can contact the museum by calling (509) 773-3733 or emailing colleen@maryhillmuseum.org.

“This is a near and dear thing to many people,” she said. “It’s worth preserving.”

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