Thursday, December 9, 2021
Dec. 9, 2021

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In Our View: Stonehenge joins variety of local historic sites

The Columbian

As Englishman E.M. Forster once wrote: “History develops, art stands still.” We might add that occasionally the two collide, sometimes in the most unexpected of places.

Such is the case with Klickitat County’s Stonehenge Memorial, a quirky and unique homage to England’s prehistoric monument. The century-old Stonehenge Memorial, built by businessman Sam Hill, long has stood as an unusual piece of art; now it has achieved official historic status. The memorial has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, joining the nearby Maryhill Museum of Art, originally constructed by Hill as a residence.

“The museum itself was placed on the National Register in 1974. We are beyond excited to now have Stonehenge Memorial listed as well,” said Colleen Schafroth, executive director of the art museum, which owns Stonehenge Memorial. “The designation recognizes Sam Hill’s singular vision and the enduring significance of the memorial as it relates to local, regional and national history.”

While the local version of Stonehenge is worth the two-hour drive east from Vancouver, local residents need not travel that far to visit a bit of history. Clark County has 44 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the register’s website.

Geographically, they range from the Yale Bridge — which spans the Lewis River on Highway 502 in the northeast corner of the county — to the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River. Yes, even the much-derided I-5 Bridge is deemed a historic place (the designation adds criteria for replacement but does not prevent deconstruction).

That seems appropriate, as Clark County long has embraced and celebrated its history.

Steilacoom, in Pierce County, boasts of its 1854 incorporation and a status as the oldest city in Washington. But Vancouver was not far behind, being incorporated in 1857 — eight years before Seattle. Fort Vancouver was one of the earliest European settlements in the Northwest, serving as a residential and economic hub (the current fort along Highway 14 is a replica). And Mother Joseph played a significant role through much of the Northwest, particularly in Vancouver with what is now Providence Academy.

The National Register of Historic Places was authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. According to the website of the National Park Service, which oversees the program, it is designed to “coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.” The program also helps historic properties receive preservation benefits and incentives.

That applies to architectural gems such as the Vancouver Telephone Building at 112 W. 11th St.; the U.S. National Bank Building (now the Heritage Building) at Sixth and Main streets; and the Slocum House in Esther Short Park. It also applies to historic homes such as the Shobert House in Ridgefield and the Pittock House in Camas, and industrial sites such as the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland.

There are more. Many more, ranging from the region’s small towns to the historic hub in the center of Vancouver. In other words, the past can be celebrated throughout Clark County, with numerous sites sitting at the intersection of art and history.

Therefore, while we are pleased to see the Stonehenge Memorial near Goldendale be added to the list, we are reminded that there are plenty of historic places to visit in our own backyard.