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Maryhill Loops Road

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1909–1912, Samuel C. Lancaster, engineer. Parallel to U.S. 97, approximately five miles from Maryhill Museum of Art.
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)

Samuel Hill was one of the first and most vocal advocates for safe and reliable roads in the Pacific Northwest. From 1909 to 1912, Hill financed and supervised the building of the 10 miles of experimental roadway that became known as the Maryhill Loops Road—the first paved road in the state of Washington. The Maryhill Loops Road rises 850 feet in a series of 25 curves at a gradual grade of 5 percent, designed to accommodate the automobiles of the day. It was planned by engineer and landscape architect Samuel C. Lancaster, who later worked on the historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon.

Most roads in the early-twentieth-century United States were built of either dirt, wood planks, or macadam (crushed rock). While new paving technologies including Portland cement and asphalt did exist, they were not extensively tested and there was no consensus about which surface or method of road construction was best for automobile travel. At Maryhill, Hill built seven different thicknesses of asphalt roads to test the surfaces. While all were not equally successful, Hill effectively pioneered asphalt road construction in the Northwest. He also envisioned his road to have an economic function: he imagined wheat farmers would use the road to transport wheat from the hills down to the railroad, which ran along the base of the hillside.

Hill’s commitment to roads predates the construction of Mayhill Loops Road by a decade. In 1899, some 93 percent of the nation’s roads were ungraded and unsurfaced, and in September of that year Hill held a meeting in Spokane to promote good roads. This resulted in the formation of the Washington State Good Roads Association. By 1905, Washington had organized a state highway department and by 1907 the University of Washington established a chair of highway engineering—the first such position in the nation. In 1909, as part of the Alaskan-Yukon Exposition in Seattle, Hill organized the first Congress of Road Builders. Road building remained one of Hill’s lifelong passions, one that he incorporated into his Maryhill community and later into his Maryhill mansion, which featured automobile ramps that extended from the second floor.

Although only a small portion of the roadway is open today to drivers, the road is accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The annual Maryhill Festival of Speed attracts longboarders and street lugers.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Robert R. Franklin
Coordinator: 
J. Philip Gruen
Robert R. Franklin
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Data

Timeline

  • 1909

    Design and construction

What's Nearby

Citation

Robert R. Franklin, "Maryhill Loops Road", [Goldendale, Washington], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WA-01-039-0020-03.

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