Stonehenge in America - Sam Hill's Memorial to the Fallen

Stonehenge in England
About 5,000 years ago in Britain, construction began on a circle of gigantic standing stones. Completed perhaps a thousand years later, the monolithic structure known simply as Stonehenge has been a mystery to historians and archeologists ever since.

Another mystery was built in the early 1900s, this time in America.

Samuel Hill was many things -- a businessman, a lawyer, a railroad executive, a Quaker and a pacifist. He was also a globetrotter in a time when travel was slow, making over 50 trips to Europe and 9 to Japan. For thirty years he made his home in the Pacific Northwest and constructed a memorial there, dedicated to the men from Klickitat County in Washington State who had been killed in World War I. It was the very first memorial for that war in the entire United States.

Dedication, 1918 (Sam Hill, center)
And it was not an ordinary memorial. Sam Hill had personally visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire County, England, and the prevailing theory at the time was that the immense circle and altar had been used by Druids for human sacrifice. Hill adopted both the idea and the design for his memorial, seeking to remind people that "humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war."
Stones are made of reinforced concrete
A windswept promontory overlooking the Columbia River was chosen as the site. It was the location of Maryhill, a small town that Hill had designed and built some 10 years earlier but which failed to attract residents. Accounts differ on when the fire took place that burned much of the town 
to the ground, but Hill is said to have cleared some of the surviving buildings away for this new project so that the memorial could have the most dramatic spot. There, guided by leading authorities on archaeology and engineering, Hill created his Stonehenge as an exact replica of the original – that is, if the original was shiny new, with all its lintels and capstones in place.

Sam Hill’s plans called for the memorial to be built of stone like the one in England – but local stone turned out to be unsuitable for the job. He turned instead to a material he had plenty of experience with in his business life: reinforced concrete. 

A trilithon
The ambitious project took over ten years to complete. There are two concentric circles of pillars. The outer 30 pillars are 16 feet high and the 40 inner pillars are 9 feet high. In the center of the circle are five trilithons (two large vertical stones supporting a lintel or third stone set horizontally across the top. The altar stone is 6 by 18 feet long. All of the pillars are concrete slabs. They were poured in massive wooden molds that were lined with crumpled tin in order to create a rough stone-like surface.  

The astronomical alignment of Hill’s Stonehenge differs from the original, however. In 1918, the year he was to dedicate the memorial site, a solar eclipse occurred on June 8 – and the best viewing of the phenomenon was in Washington State! 

Sam Hill's Stonehenge in Maryhill, WA
This meant that some of the world’s best astronomers were in the area, and Hill persuaded Professor Campbell of the University of California to fix the position of the altar stone. Campbell aligned to the astronomical horizon rather than to the midsummer solstice, as the ancient Stonehenge was once believed to be. Considering the additional difference in latitude between the two monuments, it becomes apparent that Hill’s creation cannot be used as an astronomical calendar.

Hill's Stonehenge site overlooks the
 Columbia River Valley
Note the small white crypt further down

 the hill, which holds Samuel Hill's ashes.
It’s a very small flaw, however. Most of us on this side of the ocean will visit the original Stonehenge only through photos and TV documentaries. Thanks to Sam Hill, we can wander and wonder through his life-sized creation, getting a firsthand feel for the scope and symmetry of both Stonehenges.

It’s been suggested that Sam Hill listens in on the conversations of the many tourists who seek out this out-of-the-way site. After all, on the hillside below the memorial is a very small and simple crypt overlooking the Columbia River Valley. Hill’s ashes were buried there in 1931.

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PS - Paranormal romance fans will be interested in knowing that THIS SITE was featured in a major scene in Patricia Brigg's latest installment in the Mercy Thompson series, "River Marked".

Dani Harper

Paranormal romance combines with suspense in an exciting new shapeshifter series by author Dani Harper, published by Kensington Brava. See more on Dani's website at

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