Orcas “Art” Island

I took a weekend excursion to this, one of 172 islands that make up the San Juan Islands. After missing two airport shuttles in Seattle and my planned ferry crossing from Anacortes, a 4 hour trip turned into 8+ hours. I arrive too late for dinner but just in time for a lovely sunset.

Nearing sunset at the Anacortes Ferry Dock

I’ve come to visit a friend, and to bring some summer hats to her new gallery. The drive from the ferry dock is picturesque in the waning light, and we arrive at her home on 5.5 acres of old growth forest with deer nibbling her garden. After a drink or two and a tour of her multi-floor, multi-room home and art studio, I retire to one of her guest rooms on the top floor, watching the sky darken through a window so private there’s no need to draw the curtains across it.

I wake up the next morning, about 30 feet below the top of the forest. It’s like waking up in a tree house …

After a game of fetch with the dog, and Larry’s home cooked breakfast, Janet and I head downtown to her gallery. She introduces me to the other shop owners in this cooperative – a mall filled with shops that made me wish I had a thousand dollars to spend here. There’s a farmer’s market at the town square, and then we’re off to explore the rest of the island.

There are a lot of farms here, some with goats and others with cattle. We soon arrive at Rosario Resort, built by Robert Moran in the early 1900’s as a retirement villa for himself and his family. It feels like I’ve just walked into the Hamptons…

Mr. Moran is one of those self-made men, arriving in Seattle at age 17 with 10 cents in his pocket. By age 25 he founded the Seattle Dry Dock with his brothers. He built a fleet of river boats which transported supplies to the Yukon during the Gold Rush, and was also instrumental in landing the contract to build the USS Nebraska, the first Congressionally funded naval ship built in Seattle.

He also served as Mayor of Seattle during the Great Fire of 1889, which started when a glue pot boiled over onto the wood shavings on the floor of a cabinetry shop, and in a matter of hours destroyed 30 blocks of downtown Seattle and a land mass of 60 acres. Moran’s quick actions and rebuilding plans got him re-elected, and our population doubled six months later.

Moran’s retirement project was a five story, 52 room mansion here on Orcas. It is built in the early Arts & Crafts style, by local craftsmen and ship builders, close to the water’s edge.

The view from one of the dining rooms at the Rosario Resort
Above the Music Room is a pair of private libraries

The rooms upstairs were beautiful in their simplicity, and even the bathrooms had water views. I was struck with how similar Mrs. Moran’s bedroom was to Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright’s bedroom in Chicago, right down to the Singer sewing machine. I wonder if it’s just here for show, since there’s a sewing room elsewhere in this home…

There are rooms displaying Moran’s photography, as well as a spa and three swimming pools, including one that is an indoor salt water lap pool. I admired the mosaic tile work on the floor of the gift shop that I’m pretty sure was replicating an Indian basketry pattern.

Janet then drove us through a long and winding switchback trail through Moran State Park, up to Mt. Constitution, standing as the highest point on the island at 2405 feet. It affords an astounding 360 degree view of the San Juans.

It was also pretty windy… so I did not climb up the observation tower, shown below – finished in 1940 and patterned after the watch towers in the Caucaucus Mountains in Europe.

We both enjoyed the wafts of fragrant cedars as we walked to the gift shop, before heading back down the windy switchbacks towards town.

After a stop at a hardware store, we check my new hats into her inventory, and then begin the evening project – painting all of the door and window frames in her gallery from ugly cream to shiny black.

I must say that a little paint makes a big difference. The new black woodwork not only frames her gallery nicely, but ties the building to the art and makes everything pop …

The gallery showcases island and regional artists, many exclusive to Creative Minds. It’s located at 123 North Beach Road in Eastsound. Be sure to stop by when you’re on the island!

The next morning, I took another walk around the business district. This place is nothing short of a series of photo opps …

Too soon it was time to catch the ferry, and then the airporter, and two more modes of transport after than before arriving home. Next time I’ll treat myself to travel by seaplane!

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