Stonehenge's hilltop location creates a mood that is both stark and captivating.
For some, the southernmost stretch of U.S. 97 in south central Washington is simply the quickest link between the Columbia River Gorge and the Yakima Valley. But this two-lane thoroughfare also rolls right by the history-rich town of Goldendale, a world-class art museum, and a few other offbeat sights that should tempt the passing traveler.
One surprising find sits right above town—Goldendale Observatory State Park, which houses one of the country's largest telescopes accessible to the public. To see planets and stars, check online for the viewing schedule. The facility also features a telescope specially designed for observing the sun.
After Goldendale was founded in 1872, its fertile land proved to be a boon to wheat and alfalfa farmers. By the beginning of the 20th century, the town's affluence was visible in a number of Victorian dwellings, several of which still stand.
Goldendale's early days are well chronicled at the Presby Museum. Built in 1902 by attorney Winthrop B. Presby, the 20-room Queen Anne is loaded with period furniture, pioneer clothing, and a collection of roughly 125 antique coffee mills.
Relics of a more elaborate sort reside 12 miles south at the Maryhill Museum of Art. Originally designed as a home for entrepreneur Sam Hill, the driving force behind the Columbia River Highway, the château was transformed into an art museum in 1940. Today, the museum showcases a grand array of Rodin sculptures, chess sets from around the world, and jewels once worn by Hill's good friend Queen Marie of Romania.
Hill also commissioned the nation's first monument dedicated to veterans of World War I—a slick replica of England's Neolithic Stonehenge—on a nearby bluff overlooking the Columbia River.
A mile west of the museum, you can sample crisp merlots, spicy zinfandels, and other varietals at the Maryhill Winery. In summer, the winery hosts an outdoor concert series at its 4,000-seat amphitheater. Past performers include Buddy Guy, Los Lobos, and Emmylou Harris.
When your stomach begins to rumble, head back to town for a big, honkin' burger at Marie's Homestead Restaurant. Or stick around to savor the smoked prime rib served up on Saturday nights at Sodbusters.
The original Stonehenge was built of gray sandstone and took hundreds of years to construct. Sam Hill's exact replica near Goldendale was erected in just 12 years and is made of concrete.
Photography by Terry Donnelly
This article was first published in March 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Area code is 509 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Oregon & Washington TourBook and map. Contact Klickitat County Tourism, (800) 785-1718, www.klickitatcounty.org/tourism.
To Do and See
Goldendale Observatory State Park 1602 Observatory Dr., 773-3141, www.perr.com/gosp.html.
Maryhill Museum of Art 35 Maryhill Museum Dr., 773-3733, www.maryhillmuseum.org.
Maryhill Winery 9774 Hwy. 14, 773-1976, (877) 627-9445, www.maryhillwinery.com.
Presby Museum 127 W. Broadway, 773-4303.
Marie's Homestead Restaurant 808 E. Simcoe Dr., 773-6006.
Sodbusters Restaurant 1040 E. Broadway, 773-6160.