San Juan Historical Museum
San Juan County
San Juan Island
405 Price St
Wed-Sat 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sun 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
The San Juan Historical Museum is located just outside the downtown area of Friday Harbor. Situated on a quiet street next to an historic church the museum grounds contain a number of interesting structures and artifacts. The focus of the museum is the pioneer history of San Juan Island. While docents are available to provide in-depth information about the displays, the exhibits are so well arranged with interpretive information that you can enjoy walking through the buildings on your own and still have a pleasant and informative experience.
The main house was the 1894 home of the King family who thrived at this location on their 450 acre farm of sheep, cattle and orchards. The interior is unusually well appointed in turn of the century furnishings with each room delivering a rich snapshot of life at that time.
Wandering onto the lawn-like grounds of the museum, it is easy to visit each of the outlying buildings for examples of many facets of pioneer life. Included are the family farm’s original carriage house, stone root cellar and milk house. Relocated here, an 1891 log cabin from Mitchell Bay on the west side of the island was built and used by a family that raised nine children in it. A large barn, though appropriately old looking, is actually a new addition to the museum and houses an extensive and wonderful display of carriages and uniquely conceived pioneer farming equipment. Changing displays with detailed explanations illustrate the resourcefulness of pioneers in meeting the demands of an often isolated frontier life. The history of subsistence and commercial fishing and other marine activities are also presented.
One of the highlights among these buildings is the original San Juan County Jail. Built in 1895 and actually used until 1971 it was declared the worst county jail in the state of Washington. Inside you’ll find an excellent presentation of historically notorious crimes and criminal activity including the origin of the name of "Deadman’s Bay" and the extensive smuggling operations that once flourished among the islands.
Next to the King home, in a low profiled building, is the Etta E. Egeland Resource Center. This building contains a large collection of artifacts and information available to the public including unpublished photographs, research material, rotating exhibits, and a fascinating collection of oral histories. The gift shop is a good place to select copies of interesting books on the history of the islands and personal accounts of those who lived it. Even before visiting, you can take the virtual tours found on the museum’s website which illustrate interesting chapters in early island life. Throughout the year special events are hosted by the museum; lectures, shows, Holiday events, and the Pig War Picnic. After the summer months, island life begins to slow down, check for seasonal hours before visiting.
For a pleasant and quiet stroll into the pioneer history of San Juan Island, visit the Historic Museum. If you have the time, a picnic in the shade of the old trees will give you a chance to contemplate your experience and possibly allow you to imagine a little more clearly a way of life that is now gone forever.
From the ferry dock in Friday Harbor, drive up Spring Street, in a few blocks turn right onto Price Street. The Museum is located on the left just after the church.
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San Juan Islands