San Juan Historical Museum

San Juan Historical Society and its museum shares and interprets the story of the peoples of San Juan Island.

Author: SJMuseum

Island Rec’s Music on the Lawn Summer Concert Series

events3Island Rec’s FREE Summer Concert Series at the San Juan Historical Museum on 405 Price St. every Wednesday night at 6:30 from July 5th to August 9th.

July 5Army Brass Band and Army Rock Band – Look out, we’ve got a battle of the bands here.

July 12: Tapwater – This band hails from Portland and is a boisterous sextet with lots of vocal harmonies and drums. This is a very dance able and strangely exotic band.

July 19: Blues on Tap – Acclaimed Blues band from Seattle. Be prepared to boogie in your seat or on the lawn.

July 26: Uncle Funk and the Dope 6 – This upbeat Funk & Rock band from Port Townsend will jump start the deadest of batteries. Imagine Stevie Wonder, Little Feat, Prince, Los Lobos, Elton John, and whatever fun band you’ve ever heard and mash it up.

August 2: JBots – Our local rock band knows its music and impresses all comers. Pop Rock & Roll at its best.

August 9: Uncle Otto – Another local band, this time a dynamic acoustic band with svelte harmonies singing the hits of the 70’s. Think CSN&Y, The Band, Dan Hicks, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. A little bit of Blues, Country, Rock & Roll, and Reggae.


Annual Pig War Picnic – July 4, 2017

picnicJoin over 2,000 of your fellow islanders and visitors at the Historical Museum grounds for a time honored island tradition, hosted by the Kiwanis Club of San Juan Island.

Everyone looks forward to this event each year and it is always a fun time for everyone. Its one big fun old fashioned picnic.  Wonderful historic location, great local bands, parade awards not to mention the delicious barbecued lunch and the pie eating contest. Fun for the whole family!

MHI Update


Set to open soon will be the first installment of the MHI. We have made great strides in the last few months finishing out the first wing which will be the welcoming atrium. We are in the planning process for the next two wings which will be the lime & logging wings. Artist renderings are currently being processed as well as proposed exhibit designs. A lot of good things in the works. The new year is off to a great start!

A preview opening of the San Juan Island Museum of History and Industry (MHI)

MHI-previewWednesday, March 11  5 – 8 p.m.

You are invited to a preview of the San Juan Island Museum of History and Industry (MHI). The MHI is a developing interactive educational center located in the barn on the museum grounds. The MHI will feature exhibits interpreting the past core industries of San Juan Island: Fishing, Farming, Logging and Limestone processing. The exhibits will feature multimedia presentations, interactive exhibits and items from our archives to tell the stories of these once vibrant industries.

We would like to give you a tour of the space and show you our progress to date as we near completion of the welcoming Atrium. The Atrium features an impressive three dimensional topographical map of San Juan Island which will orient visitors to historic sites as they relate to each industry.

Representatives of the MHI Steering committee will be on hand to discuss our progress and introduce the next development phases, the Logging and Lime processing exhibits set to begin this spring. We welcome the opportunity to show you the development of this new asset to our community. Light snacks and refreshments will be served.

Parking is available courtesy of St. Francis Church next door or on street.

Tour Patos Island and the 1893 Lighthouse

Patos2Saturday, September 13, 2014
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m
Tickets: $60 per person

Proceeds to benefit the San Juan Historical Society’s Museum of History & Industry.

Join in for a day trip to Patos Island and the opportunity to tour the historic 1893 lighthouse. Docents from the Keepers of the Patos Light will be on hand to provide information where you will learn the history of the lighthouse along with the legends and lore of the island. There is also a 1½ mile loop trail around the island to explore. The lighthouse is ¾ of a mile walk (one way) from the beach landing site and is a mix of strenuous to moderate to easy with the last ¼ mile on sidewalk. Approximate time on the island will be 3 hours.Patos4

The tour will depart Shipyard Cove (rain or shine) on the Pintail Barge at 9:00 a.m., and will return at approximately 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person in advance and will be limited by boat capacity. For more information or to purchase tickets by phone, please call the San Juan Historical Museum at 378-3949.

Keep in mind: trip is rain or shine, be sure and dress according to changing weather conditions; bring lunch, snacks and water.

*images courtesy of Keepers of the Patos Light

National Preservation Month’s “History Lives Here” – May 2014

San Juan Island National Historical Park, the San Juan Island Library and the San Juan Historical Society will celebrate the pioneer heritage of American Camp with a Fireside Program and Historical Structures Tour of American Camp’s Officers’ Quarters and the other structures associated with it at American Camp on May 30-31.

An evening program—scheduled at 7 p.m., Friday May 30 in the San Juan Island Library—will focus on families who played a major role in birthing settlement on San Juan Island, as well as conserving historic structures such as the Officers’ Quarters (the old McRae house), which was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1856 and moved to San Juan Island during the Pig War crisis.

The next day, from noon to 3 p.m., park staff will, for first time in park history, open the interior of the Officers’ Quarters to the public, as well as the old Brown house (moved to the park in December 2010), the Laundress Quarters and offer guided tours of the redoubt.

The park also will also be commemorating the start of the long-awaited restoration of the Officers’ Quarters (the McRae house, also known officially as Historic Structure 11) interior, which will begin this year, and may be already underway, depending on maintenance scheduling.

The fireside program on the 30th will be preceded by a brief PowerPoint program outlining the history of the building(s) and families at American Camp. The park will then turn the program over to San Juan Islanders to share family stories and personal experiences with the house and surrounding lands, including the beaches and bluffs. The discussion will be moderated by park historian Mike Vouri, but all San Juan islanders are invited to share family stories associated with the site.

Following the joint military occupation of the island, the building remained in place, as a farm house, to several families, but primarily the Firth, Firth/LaChappelle and McRae families. The Christopher Rosler family had holdings immediately adjacent to the camps and helped farm the lands in later years. Other island families, such as the Nashes are descended from American Camp soldiers.

American Camp and its counterpart on the northern end of the island, English Camp, were created as a result of the Pig War, the military/naval standoff in 1859 between the United States and Great Britain that lasted several months after an American shot a pig belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Eventually both nations agreed to a joint military occupation of the island by the American soldiers and the British Royal Marines, which over its 12-year duration created a mostly stable environment that invited settlement by citizens of both nations.

The fact that the islands were in dispute did not dissuade these pioneers from staking claims among the island’s frigid waters, dark forests, rocky bights, and wind-swept prairies. From 1860 to 1870, the civilian population on San Juan jumped from 73 to 457, hardly spectacular by later standards, but significant for a 54-square-mile island on the pale of settlement.

The very idea of a national park on San Juan Island is largely due to these settlers and the native peoples who preceded them. If you have images to contribute to the PowerPoint program or require more information, contact Mike Vouri at 360-378-2240, ext. 2227, or Doug Halsey at 360-378-2240, ext. 2228.

Progress with The Museum of History and Industry

museum-meeting-22014The Museum of History and Industry is taking shape here, through the dedicated work of the Steering Committee.  Fred Yockers and Don Nixon met this month with local fishing experts and historians to review the plans for the Fishing wing of MHI.

Fred showed the model he and Don had created for the exhibits at the Museum, and discussed the design ideas.  There was a spirited discussion about fish traps, purse seining, and the Committee received valuable input about obtaining more historical photos, stories from Island fishers, and insights into the conditions and challenges facing those who made their living from the waters around San Juan Island.

Have anything to offer us as we create this exciting new project for the San Juan Historical Museum?  We need photos, old nets (not synthetic) and any artifacts you have will be considered.  Press the “email us” button at the bottom of the page here and let us know!

Preserving Our Communities

quilt-smNational Preservation Month’s “History Lives Here” will take place in May

Friday Harbor, WA. The Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island Historical Societies are collaborating on an exciting project for History Lives Here month in May, 2014. The central theme will be quilts as carriers of community and women’s history. The museums are putting together exhibits and programs that feature historic and contemporary quilts, with an emphasis on signature quilts.

The Lopez Island Historical Museum will feature several programs and a special signature quilt exhibit from May 9 through May 17. Orcas will exhibit their quilt collection from May 9 through June 23and will host a featured speaker at the Museum on May 11. San Juan will exhibit select examples from their quilt collection from May 9 through May 18. All exhibits and programs will be open to the public.

The Western Washington Quilt Study Group has scheduled their annual meeting in San Juan County to coincide with these special exhibits. The three-day event (May 16-18) will include trips to Orcas Island and Friday Harbor to see the quilts hanging at each island’s historical museum.

In addition to the special exhibits, two collectors from the Mid-West will be sharing examples from their collections of early 19th-century antique quilts from the U.S., Great Britain and France, along with the exciting stories that accompany them. These quilts have never been exhibited on the West Coast.

Other events will include a Bed Turning at The Quilt Cabin on Lopez, a discussion of two early 20th century quilt designers by quilt historian and past-president of The Quilters Hall of Fame, Karen Alexander; and a program on quilt conservation and restoration by professional quilt restorer Anne Dawson of Lopez Island.

Island Museum of History and Industry

MHI-featureThe Island Museum of History and Industry (MHI) will be an interactive educational facility located on the grounds of the San Juan Historical Museum. It will be housed in the barn, which was rebuilt in classic Island style. MHI will focus on the core industries that built this island: Fishing – Farming – Logging – Lime. The goal of MHI is to focus many of the museum’s artifacts into a reflection of the industries and the people who were involved.

Will you be a part of this project?

We need your dollars! Our fundraising goal is $200,000. The project has already begun and with your help we will make steady progress. In addition to financial donations, we need volunteer time and contributions of material and artifacts.

We need YOU! The building of the MHI building will take about two years. Volunteers are needed at every step along the way: research, construction, fundraising, representation at community events, material gathering, volunteer coordination, and so much more. Join us! Go to the volunteer form (click here) and check MHI project as your field of interest.