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Samuel Hill was undoubtedly a visionary in his own right, but having friends in high places didn't hurt him any. In 1907 he purchased 5,300 acres along the Columbia River to establish a Quaker farming community and found the Maryhill Land Company, named after his daughter. Seven years later he set to work building a mansion on the hill overlooking the river. But then his company folded and the mansion was without purpose. Enter friend number one: Parisian dance pioneer Loïe Fuller. She advised him to transform the cavernous building into an art museum. Throughout the next several years, he filled its halls with pieces from around the world, supplemented by works from Loïe's artist friends—including Auguste Rodin. And to further demonstrate his web of camaraderie, another friend of Hill's, Queen Marie of Romania, contributed Orthodox art and icons from her homeland. In 1926, the Queen dedicated the mansion as the Maryhill Museum of Art to a crowd of more than 2,000 onlookers.
And yet the museum wasn't finished. When Hill died in 1931, the museum's board of trustees stepped in to helm the completion of the project. On May 13, 1940, on what would've been Hill's 83rd birthday, they opened the museum to the public. In the years immediately following, Hill collaborator and arts patron Alma de Bretteville Spreckels fortified the museum's already-impressive collection with works of art loaned and gifted from her own home.
Today Maryhill overlooks the same vista, plus a sculpture garden, displaying its diverse collection of art from around the world. In addition to 80 original pieces by Rodin, including The Thinker, paintings by other European and American artists, and the Théâtre de la Mode French fashion exhibition, the museum's halls display Native American works from prehistoric times to the modern age. It also caters to younger minds with an activity room filled with games and child-friendly activity guides that make art accessible to kids so that parents don't have to carve Starry Night into their grilled cheese sandwiches.
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