"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

07 September 2013


Book Review

The Building of Roche Harbor Resort by the Tarte Family: Neil Tarte in his own words.
Narration by Neil A. Tarte (1927-2014) to Mitzi Johnson. 
Roche Harbor Resort, San Juan Island, WA.
Large photo dated 1956.
Originals from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
"Mitzi Johnson, a long-time resident of Friday Harbor, captures Neil Tarte's words and tone in this delightful book of the history of Roche Harbor Resort during the years that the Tarte family owned it (1956-1989).
      Mitzi had promised Neil's devoted wife, Margaret, who died in 2007, that she would help Neil write his memoir. The first edition was published in 2010. Their recorded conversations are so carefully transcribed that you sense Neil himself, is explaining this story to you.
      Reuben and Clara Tarte, Neil's parents, came to the San Juan Islands in their yacht, CLAREU II, in the 1930s to find that there was no safe place to tie up a yacht––except to pilings. About 20 years later, when they purchased the 4,000 acres and 12 miles of coastline from the McMillin family, they could envision a boater's marina. None existed anywhere.
      All that was left were several buildings from the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Co (earlier, a Hudson's Bay outpost), workers' cottages, and the McMillin home, along with a crumbling Hotel de Haro.
Hotel de Haro, Roche Harbor Resort
Winter 1958-59

A beauty parlor, snack bar and gift shop 
were installed in the old Hotel. 
Salmon barbecues with 
Indian dance programs were staged for tourists.
Houses for miners' families were filled with motorists.
Original, dated photo from the S. P. H. S.
      It took all the muscle the family had with Reuben, Clara, and Neil, at the helm, to build this magnificent resort. Neil's family and close friends all played a part in turning this 'jewel in the rough' into a location where people would want to come and stay.
      With determination, as they needed things, they would find a way to get them. They were able to restore the crumbling Hotel de Haro into 20 guest rooms (including President Theodore Roosevelt's room). 
Colors Ceremony, 
a tradition begun by Reuben Tarte (1927-2014)
It is performed at dusk every night during the summer,
and familiar to all Roche Harbor regulars.
Photo by Gordon Keith.

From the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

They developed the McMillin family home into a restaurant and bar, and added an outside deck and gazebo. They obtained a liquor license, turned Roche Harbor into a major port of entry for US Customs, and also added a 4,000-ft airstrip.

British blockhouse, June 1960

A favorite boating and beachcombing area 
guests and off duty employees in Garrison Bay,
a short trip south from Roche Harbor. 
Stopping at Garrison Bay's most famous landmark, 

were four young Roche Harbor employees, Gwen Bergh, 
Betsy Neighbor, Bill Brilliant, and Kelvin Vogel.  
The blockhouse dates from the middle of the 1800s.
Original, dated, photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©

       Readers will be reminded of long-standing San Juan Island family names. John Wayne would bring his yacht into Roche Harbor in the 1970s, and 'the Duke' would welcome flotillas of visitors. Neil Bay, named after Neil, has been the picturesque neighborhood for dozens of families all these years. The Roche Harbor gardens, designed by Neil's mother, Clara Tarte, delight thousands of visitors annually; many weddings are booked there.
       Today, one takes for granted this beautiful location, but the blood, sweat, and tears that went into creating it are worth reading.
      You'll feel like Neil is just telling you what happened."
Review courtesy of writer Suzy Mygatt Wakefield, April 2012.
Tarte, Neil. The Building of Roche Harbor Resort by the Tarte Family. Illumina Publishing 2010.
The Building of Resort book search 

The four photographs with captions in this post are from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©.

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