Lopez Island Historical Museum
San Juan County
28 Washburn Pl
Thurs-Sat 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Sun 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Despite being such a peaceful little island, Lopez Island certainly has a colorful history. The first European settlers on Lopez were mainly British sailors who jumped ship to stake a claim to the agriculturally rich land. These sailors had been pressed into service so the opportunity to be free of the British crown on the remote, scenic island must have been appealing. These sailors married native women, mostly from the Salish and Lummi tribes, and settled down to farming and fishing. The museum has models of steamships operated by one such renegade who traded his British military uniform for a 16-year-old native woman and built a local shipping empire.
Much of the museum’s space is dedicated to the European settlement of the area. Paper records include genealogical charts and diaries of the early settlers, side by side with reproductions of historical photographs of the region. The island’s rich agricultural past is also archived here in the form of butter churns, centrifuges, milking machines and steam engines. Frontier life is also represented with a collection of quilts, carriages, pianos and other household items. Outside the museum can be found several fishing boats from the Island’s past, as well as a bona fide British dinghy from the ships that once plied the local waters.
Some native artifacts and history are present, represented from the perspective of the white man. One painting depicts an early homesteader with musket in hand, standing guard on a moonlight shoreline. In the background, a canoe full of Salish Indians paddles in the night waters. The proprietor of the museum related the story of how the settler described in the picture would run off the Salish every year when they returned to their traditional summer fishing grounds. Apparently, his efforts were in vain because the natives still return to the same spot today despite his efforts to stop them. The museum houses a native dug-out canoe as well, a rare relic of native construction.
When visiting the museum, be sure to pick up a San Juan County Historical Landmark Tour brochure. This guidebook is filled with dozens of intriguing historical spots on the island.
Drive to Lopez Village and find the grocery store (there's only one). The Museum is in the field behind the grocery store.
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San Juan Islands