MARYHILL -- A world-class collection of art sits in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the mighty Columbia River near Goldendale.
Sam Hill's historic chateau has been transformed into the Maryhill Museum of Art, and on Mother's Day weekend it will stage a grand opening to celebrate the completion of a $10 million expansion project that began two years ago.
The new, all-glass wing -- named after two of the museum's generous benefactors, Mary and Bruce Stevenson -- extends closer to the river, adding 25,500 square feet to the chateau's existing 20,000 square feet.
The addition allows visitors a panoramic perspective of the Columbia River Gorge and nearby vineyards, and the huge patio square makes outdoor viewing an eye candy experience.
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There also is a new and improved walkway from the expansion area to the Lewis & Clark Overlook point on the museum's 26-acre site.
The new wing, which offers a view of Mount Hood, includes a long gallery that will feature various art pieces that will change several times a year. At the end of the long gallery is a well-appointed caf that will serve artisanal fare, local wines and coffee, a room for lectures and films, and a viewing patio called Vista Terrace.
"We are very excited about this new wing," said Colleen Schafroth, executive director of the museum. "It will open on May 1, and our official dedication ceremony is planned for the weekend of May 12-13. We also hope to eventually have an education center where we can offer artists-in-residence programs.
"This museum has a long and rich history, and we have artists from all over the world who come here to use our research library."
But Maryhill did not start out as a museum.
In 1907, businessman and philanthropist Samuel Hill bought the 5,300-acre site, which sits high on the bluffs overlooking the Columbia River and Biggs, Ore.
Hill started construction of the castlelike mansion, which he named after his daughter Mary, in 1914 and intended to live there and establish a Quaker farming community. But his plans fell through, and he never took up residence.
But Hill had some impressive friends, including Loïe Fuller, a pioneer of modern dance in Paris. She persuaded him transform Maryhill into a museum rather than abandon it. And the new cafe, scheduled to open May 1, is named Loïe.
Fuller got the project rolling by donating more than 80 sculptures by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Those pieces, including a smaller version of Rodin's The Thinker, remain part of the museum's permanent collection and are housed in their own gallery on the lower level.
Also featured in the permanent collection is a selection of Russian Orthodox icons, an elaborate doll collection, Native American art, intricately carved chess sets representing many of the world's cultures, and royal memorabilia from Hill's friend Queen Marie of Romania -- a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England.
And although the museum was not quite finished, Queen Marie visited Maryhill in 1926 to dedicate the museum. The ceremony brought national attention to a little-known and remote area.
Hill died in 1931, before the museum was completed, but another of his influential friends, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, finished the project. Spreckels, wife of San Francisco sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels, joined the museum's board of trustees and donated several pieces of art from her private collection for the 1940 opening.
Recently, Tamara McAllister of Portland and her 12-year-old daughter Sarah Kanzaki paid their first visit to Maryhill Museum and loved learning about its history.
"I'd heard about this museum and the fabulous Rodin collection, but this is the first time I've been here to see it," McAllister said. "There's such a rich history of Native Americans here too. I'm from the East Coast originally, and there's nothing back there that gives this kind of historic look at the Indian culture."
Her daughter was especially fond of the museum's doll collection.
"I loved the dolls," Sarah said. "They were definitely my favorite."
Museum curator Steve Grafe said many of the Maryhill's permanent art pieces have been loaned to museums throughout the world, including the rare collection of Russian icons and a several dolls. The museum also offers traveling exhibitions throughout the year, including an upcoming exhibit of almost 40 etchings depicting Grimm's Fairy Tales.
"With the expansion of the museum nearing completion, we'll be doing some rearranging of our exhibits," Grafe said. "All French art will be on the lower level, and Native American art will take up the top floor. The history of Sam Hill, Queen Marie and the Russian icons will tentatively stay on the main floor."
Another part of Maryhill's heritage is the Stonehenge monument Hill built in 1918 to honor Klickitat County soldiers who died in World War I. It was fashioned after the prehistoric monument in England. The original Stonehenge was created with giant boulders indigenous to the English countryside where it was erected. Hill's replica, however, was constructed from concrete because rock near Maryhill was considered unsatisfactory for the project.
Surrounding the castle is an outdoor sculpture garden, picnic areas and a family of about 20 peacocks that roam the grounds.
"The peacocks have been here for as long as I can remember," Schafroth said. "They're a little noisy sometimes, especially during mating season. And they can be a little aggressive, so we don't encourage people to feed them."
The museum has played an important role in Washington tourism since it opened, said Maureen Buley, tourism ambassador for Washington State Tourism Alliance.
"Along with the majestic, natural scenic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, Maryhill Museum has made a great impact on the Yakima/Columbia River Gorge region as one of the most desirable and must-see destinations on a visit through Washington state," she said.
Maryhill Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 15 through Nov. 15, including holidays. Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, $3 for ages 7-18 and $25 for a family. Group rates also are available.
The weekendlong dedication of the new wing festivities, which start at 10 a.m. on May 12 and 13, includes an antique car show, photo opportunities with lifelike cutouts of Hill, Queen Marie, Fuller and Spreckels, a dedication ceremony, a fly-by of antique planes, a driving tour and live jazz.
Schafroth said the celebration also honors Sam Hill's long ago dream for Maryhill. The new wing, the growing collection of distinguished art and the promise of continued growth while preserving history were all part of the dream that became reality in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Washington.
Maryhill Winery has everything for summertime fun
If you're going to make the 110-mile trek from the Tri-Cities to Maryhill Museum, you might want to check out other nearby attractions.
Maryhill Winery is about two miles west of the museum on Highway 14. The winery attracts more than 80,000 visitors a year, which doesn't include the thousands who come to the winery's summer music concerts. And they come for good reason.
The views from the winery's huge, pergola-covered deck are almost as breathtaking as Maryhill Museum's, and there's bocci ball courts on the site, family picnic grounds, as well as a spacious tasting room.
"The weather is a great asset to this area," said Vicki Leuthold, who owns Maryhill Winery with her husband, Craig. "It's warm and sunny a lot, and that always appeals to people. And, we have wonderful wines."
This year's musical lineup at the winery includes Earth Wind & Fire on July 21 followed by Alison Krauss and Union Station on Aug. 5 and Huey Lewis and the News on Sept. 15.
Tickets for the concerts will go on sale April 21. Cost has not yet been determined but Leuthold says music lovers can check the winery's web site for updates on those ticket prices at www.maryhillwinery.com.
The tasting room features a 30-foot-long bar accented by a brass footrail. There's also a comfy sitting area with overstuffed couches next to a fireplace. And while you're visiting, be sure to keep an eye out for Potter, the winery's huge white Newfoundland who tends to wander the grounds from time to time. He's a bit shy but friendly nonetheless.
The winery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Heavenly pastries at St. John's Bakery north of Maryhill
Those looking for some heavenly pastries during a day trip to Maryhill Museum or Maryhill Winery should consider a side trip to St. John's Bakery.
The bakery, a 20-minute drive north of Maryhill and beyond Goldendale, features an eclectic mix of scrumptious homemade pastries. The store also offers prayer beads, lotions and soaps, candles, Greek icons, incense, gourmet chocolates, jams, honey, goat cheese and milk.
All are handmade by the 20 sisters who run St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery, which was built in 1995. Proceeds from the bakery are used to maintain the monastery tucked into the trees behind the bakery on Highway 97 near Satus Pass.
"We make everything from scratch," said one of the sisters, who was not allowed to give her name.
A customer in the store, who did not want to be identified but lives in Naches, said she never misses a chance to stop at the bakery on her way to visit her sister in Redmond, Ore.
"The baklava is to die for," she said.
It is made fresh daily, along with gyros, cheesecake and muffins. Orders also can be placed online at www.stjohnmonastery.org.
The bakery address is 5 Timmer Lane, Goldendale. It's open Monday through Saturday.
* Tours of the monastery are by reservation only by going to www.stjohnmonastery.org.