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Enchanting Hidden Gems: The McMillin Memorial Mausoleum in Roche Harbor

Monument with large columns in a forested area

The John S. McMillin Memorial Mausoleum is a 20-minute drive from Friday Harbor and your accommodations at the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites. Offering a fairytale atmosphere, the mausoleum is a popular destination for visitors to the San Juan Islands.

McMillin Family History

When visiting Roche Harbor Resort today, it’s hard to imagine this place as the center of the limestone industry west of the Mississippi. John McMillin was the founder of the limestone operation here, which he ran from the mid-1800 until his death in 1936. During that time, the McMillin family resided on San Juan Island right next to the lime factory.

Today, visitors come to Roche Harbor from near and far to cruise the islands and soak up the sun. For those feeling adventurous, a little hidden mystery in the woods just across from the Roche Harbor Sculpture park is the John S. McMillin Mausoleum. “Afterglow Vista” is the name that McMillin had etched into the stone arch leading to this monumental burial site.

Visiting the John S. McMillin Memorial Mausoleum

The enchanting atmosphere begins with the entrance to the Afterglow Vista. This trail will take visitors through a local cemetery, featuring ceremonial tombstones among the grassy stretch. The flourishing landscape adds to the ancient feelings that overwhelm the main structure. Along this trail, you will notice names of other deceased locals from the island as you walk deeper into the forest toward the mausoleum.

John McMillin was a mason by trade and brought a lot of this skill into the architecture of the mausoleum. When you first approach the towering rotunda deep in the woods, you would think it was plucked from a fantasy novel of some sort. Every detail has significance. The mausoleum is an open-air monument with a large round limestone table signifying the table John and his family sat around for dinner. The eight chairs represent each family member, minus their son who did not follow the family’s Methodist religion, and their ashes have been placed inside. The three steps leading up to the rotunda symbolize the three stages of life: youth, middle age, and old age. When you look around you will notice roman columns with one notably broken. This represents the unfinished work in a man’s life.

John S. McMillin Memorial Mausoleum

Of course, there is going to be a ghost story associated with the mausoleum. In the 1950s, the Tarte family bought Roche Harbor Resort and came across an urn. They later learned that the urn contained the ashes of a woman named Ada Beane, a staff member of the McMillin household. The new owners entombed Ada’s ashes in the mausoleum as well, though not in a seat at the table as she would not have sat with them in life. Legend has it that Ada still walks the halls of Roche Harbor’s Bed and Breakfast De Hiro. There have been a few “encounters” by Roche Harbor employees who have seen her.

Other Things to See and Do in Roche Harbor

On a warm and sunny summer day, enjoy a walk through the woods so that you can enjoy this beautiful monument. While you are visiting Roche Harbor, you’ll also want to enjoy the formal gardens, view the multi-million dollar yachts tied up in the marina, and grab a quick bite at Lime Kiln Café. If you are there in the morning you can grab a freshly made doughnut and a cup of coffee. Their clam chowder or local lamb burgers make for a satisfying lunch.

sculpture park montage

As you leave the resort, be sure to stop and tour the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve, home to more than 150 unique outdoor art creations by world-renowned sculptors.

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