San Juan Historical Museum

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

Lorraine McConaghy: Washington at War (WWI)

Wednesday, May 24, 7 pm at the San Juan Island Library.
One-hundred years ago in 1917, the US entered The Great War to fight alongside our European allies. But Washington’s homefront experience began long before the country entered the war, and continued afterward. Led by historian Lorraine McConaghy, the program begins with an illustrated introduction to the war’s themes before offering a “Readers’ Theater:” a script that is read aloud together, allowing participants to speak the history they are discovering.

Writing Our History Workshop 

Saturday, May 20 from 10-4 pm at the San Juan Island Library.
Eager to learn skills and resources for writing our local history?  Here’s your chance. This workshop, sponsored by HistoryLink’s Writing Our History Project, will present local, regional, state and federal sources of information, as well as general resources for genealogical research. Several case studies will highlight the diverse ways in which local historians have researched their specific topics.

From Oddfellows to Orcas: A History of the Oddfellows Hall 

Friday, May 19, 7 pm at the San Juan Island Library.
If these walls could talk…and sometimes they do in the former Odd Fellows Hall, now known as The Whale Museum. Robin Jacobson will bring you from the Mt. Dallas Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, the benevolent organization that developed the property in 1892, to Orcas, with a modern Salish Sea focus as The Whale Museum in 1979.  Co-sponsor San Juan Historical Museum. 

Mike Vouri: Friday Harbor and San Juan Island Books 

Wednesday, May 17, 7 pm at the San Juan Island Library.
It’s been at least seven years since Mike and Julia Vouri wrote their Images of America Friday Harbor and San Juan Island books in conjunction with the San Juan Historical Museum.  Mike will revisit them with us, talking about the process of writing and research materials that have surfaced since then. Co-sponsor San Juan Historical Museum.

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.

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