Orcas Island Historical Museum
San Juan County
181 North Beach Road
Tues-Sun 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Fri 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
The Orcas Island Historical Museum is made up of six original homestead cabins and sits unabashedly in the middle of downtown Eastsound. All of the cabins come from original sites on Orcas Island and each one boasts a display depicting the life of a homesteader.
Walking through each cabin, one experiences a different piece of history. The first cabin is John Boede’s, who built the cabin in the late 1880s. It is arranged in the style of a typical household, which includes a tiny bed with rope strung across a frame instead of a mattress. Next, you learn a bit about fruit farming on Orcas. Apples, plums and other fruit were big business in the old days. Woodsy Kimple built the next cabin and many Native American art pieces are on display. The next cabin features a maritime history of the island and some woodworking and farming tools, including a gigantic oxen yoke that was used for logging in the early 1900s.
The last cabins feature an oral history exhibit entitled "Orcas Remembers its Elders." This is a great collection of black and white photos along with snippets of stories from the island’s elders. There are some delightful, moving stories posted, as well as a blank notebook for guests with an invitation to share one’s own personal history. Many natives and newcomers have written in the book to document important moments in their lives. From Jane Willis Barfoot Hodde’s account of how her grandfather traveled across the country to join the civil war on Orcas Island (he was turned down because he "shot from the wrong shoulder") to Fred Enge’s recent account of the winter storm of 1989 ("My damn ears froze out there") the stories provide a bit of history you don’t normally get to see.
The museum closes for the year on October 1, but reopens in late May. There is research assistance available year round.
From the Orcas Island ferry landing, drive 9 miles on Orcas Road (Horseshoe Highway)to Eastsound. Turn left onto North Beach Road. The museum is about a half-block ahead on the right.
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San Juan Islands