Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

A place of comfort

The Maryhill Museum of Art is one of many places that makes me feel better.

It sits stonily on the endlessly-held waves of rock out along the Columbia River, looking towards the south to a dustily beautiful, semi-desert horizon. A solid, sandy-colored, warm, and unexpected mansion, Maryhill is an oasis. It's certainly felt that way to me.

When I lived closer to there -- a mere 80 miles away in Hermiston, Oregon as opposed to the 110 miles away I am now in Portland (meaning IT'S NOT THAT MUCH FARTHER, as I remind myself) -- Maryhill was a good go-to day trip. On one genuinely obnoxious Saturday morning -- a sewage flood happened right outside my apartment, and my attempt to get some work done at the closed, empty office was interrupted in an annoying way -- I needed a change of scenery, some fresh air, some fresh sights. I did one of my day trips there. I felt refreshed. VERY refreshed.

Maryhill is an eccentric place built by an eccentric man. Sam Hill (Wikipedia page here) fell in love with the inner Pacific Northwest, and wanted to share it. So he learned how to build roads. As you do. The result, a century ago, was the Columbia River Highway, large portions of which are still around and functional. They were built well. (The Maryhill Loops Road was the first road Hill and his fellows built, to see if their techniques would work. It's still around and used for special events and car commercials.) Other plans changed: he built what what intended as a Quaker farming town on the river, and started building the Maryhill mansion itself as a residence, but the town didn't work out and the mansion was nowhere near being finished near the end of his he decided to finish it as a museum. Which is why we have this amazing gift of a place, ever since it opened to the public in 1940.

Maryhill made the news, happily, with the completion of the first major expansion of the museum space. This was a large, complicated job, in an isolated area, built around a National Register of Historic Places edifice that can't and shouldn't be altered too much but which needed to work better as a museum (remember, it's a re-purposed house; a huge house, but still). And soon I hope to find a chance to see it. Get back there.

Heck, reading it described as a "fortress" makes me think Maryhill would be a good place to escape to in the event of zombie apocalypse. Yes, I'm still me.

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