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Here is What You’ll Find at the San Juan Historical Museum

History Museum Exhibit san juan island

The San Juan Historical Museum is a must-see attraction during your exploration of the San Juan Islands. Located only a few blocks away from the Friday Harbor ferry landing, the San Juan Historical Museum plays host to the annual Friday Harbor Fourth of July Pig War Picnic, Music on the Lawn Summer Concert Series, Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration, and several workshops and exhibits throughout the year. The history museum includes 19th and 20th century life on San Juan Island, featuring photographs, pioneer stories, and a blend of cultures that have shaped the island over the years. Here are just a few things that you will find during your visit to the San Juan Historical Museum.


One mission of the San Juan Historical Museum and San Juan Historical Society is to explore the roots of those who came before us and learn more about our own lives in the process. The museum will take you back in time to a pioneer age of rugged individualism, explorer instincts, and downright courage. As you walk the grounds of the San Juan Historical Museum and discover the variety of buildings and exhibits, you can begin to peel back the layers of San Juan Island history and find out where the locals came from, tracing their beginnings back to ancestral figures, including the original Coast Salish peoples, who are featured at the San Juan Historical Museum.

Restored James King Farmhouse

The James King Farmhouse at the San Juan Historical Museum was constructed by James F. King in 1894 after his log cabin was destroyed in a fire. King acquired 445 surrounding acres, long before the Town of Friday Harbor expanded around the farm. On this farm, King raised sheep and dairy cattle and tended a pear and apple orchard. In 1966, the San Juan historical site was purchased by local resident George Peacock and donated to the San Juan Historical Society to transform into a museum.

Original County Jail

The first county jail was built in 1894 for $234.50 and was used to lock up local lawbreakers until its reputation as the worst jail in the state of Washington influenced its condemnation in 1971. Notorious murderer Richard Straub was housed here and hanged in 1895 as San Juan Island’s only execution. This building was moved onto the San Juan Historical Museum property. In 1982.

Scribner Log Cabin

Edward Scribner built his log cabin in 1891 on Mitchell Bay with his wife and three children. Years later, the family moved to Friday Harbor, leaving the cabin vacant for a time. In 1988, it was donated to the San Juan Historical Museum and moved onto museum grounds. The Scribner Log Cabin was then restored to near original condition, with part of the interior turned into an 1896 school classroom replica. A program for local elementary kids entitled “The Living Lesson” is held here, and students have the opportunity to dress in period clothing and take lessons in reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic as well as historic events.  

Museum of History and Industry

The barn on the San Juan Historical Museum grounds is currently being converted into a new Museum of History and Industry, which will tell the stories of the island’s fishing, farming, logging, and lime industries. This new museum will be an interactive educational facility featuring those four industries that spanned and sustained generations. This new extension of the San Juan Historical Museum will feature historical artifacts, images, multimedia and interactive displays, and five sections of exhibits. The welcoming atrium will introduce these five sections and include a large 3-D topographical map.

San Juan Historical Museum Logo

San Juan Historical Museum Open House

The 50th Anniversary Open House of the San Juan Historical Museum will be held on May 21, 2016 from 11am to 3pm. Admission is free for the day, and there will be music and stories along with the museum exhibits. The museum will open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. There will be a month-long celebration of National Historic Preservation Month, with the theme “History Lives Here.” There will be guided walking tours, local history talks, and other special events to highlight the opening of the San Juan Historical Museum. There will also be the launch of a summer-long Historical Scavenger Hunt, a fun, family-themed activity fostering exploration or lesser known island historical sites.

Tucker House Inn of Friday Harbor

Keep things local by staying at the Tucker House Inn of Friday Harbor, Washington. Enjoy the charming atmosphere of this San Juan Island bed and breakfast, and wake up to a delicious gourmet breakfast the morning after a day full of exploring the islands and San Juan Historical Museum. For more to do in the area, download our free vacation guide!

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