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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.

27 October 2015


Built 1936, Roche Harbor, WA. 
Photograph dated May 1948.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H. S.©
"In 1936, following the building of twenty simple frame cottages for married workers and their families, at the age of eighty-one, John McMillin turned his attention to construction of the family mausoleum––a tholos, or circular temple-like monument of local limestone and cement on a elevated site northeast of the workers' cottages and cemetery. Before the second growth timber reached its maturity, the site commanded a panorama of Afterglow Beach and Haro Strait beyond. The entrance to the mausoleum precinct is marked by a masonry gateway with filigree arch bearing the title "Afterglow Vista." The restraint which McMillin had exercised in constructing his own residence in the heart of the company town some sixteen years or more earlier was now abandoned. The project was a means for the company founder to honor his deceased older son and to express his personal views about life and death.
The dinner table within the mausoleum,
in the seats of which are urns containing 
the ashes of the departed.
Photo dated 30 May 1948.
From the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      In designing the structure, McMillin (a Mason of the 32nd Degree) drew upon the symbolism of Freemasonry as well as his own concept of family unity. Flights of three, five and seven steps ascending the tholos mound are understood to be allusions to the three stages of life, the five orders of architecture, and the seven liberal arts. The colonnade is formed by seven fluted Tuscan columns thirty feet in height, the seventh of which is broken to signify the broken column of human life and, specifically, the severed life ties of the builder. A concrete architrave with trefoil arches was intended to support a bronze dome surmounted by Maltese cross. The latter would have represented McMillin's life-long devotion to Sigma Chi fraternity (he was the first grand consul.) However, the $20,000 custom order for the dome was cancelled at the last minute as an extravagance which could be ill-afforded. In the center of the stone-paved floor were crypts where ashes were to be inurned. These took the form of six chairs arranged around a round table in limitation of the family dining style. The device was to symbolize reunion after death. Appropriate inscriptions were added to each of the stone chair backs. Reportedly, the ultimate refinement of this elaborate monument was orientation in such a way that each June the setting sun shone through the broken column on the west onto the crypts of the family head and his wife on the opposite side.
      The project was completed, without dome, in the spring of 1936 at a cost of $30,000. John S. McMillin died the following November, and his remains were placed in the mausoleum to join those of his son Fred (1880-1922.) Other family crypts were filled as time went on. The monument is still maintained as a feature of the resort."
The Roche Harbor Resort was added to the National Record of Historical Places 29 August 1977. File # 77001356. The 25 page application including the above text, in the public domain, was prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter.
      Contrary to the assumption of a few visitors to the tomb, no chairs have been left out.
      A book, Roche Harbor, A Saga in the San Juans was written and published by Lynette Evans and George Burley in 1972. They tell of the eerily beautiful mausoleum and the company town ruled by lime magnate John S. McMillin. 

Book search here.

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