Sometimes it’s the most beautiful areas of our country that hold the strangest secrets. That’s certainly the case in Washington, where the deep woods of the San Juan Island hold a statuesque gravesite that is more than a bit unusual. While the island is a popular destination for tourists, many people have not heard of the Afterglow Vista. The story behind its creation is fascinating, and its existence is eerily morbid.
Located on San Juan Island, Roche Harbor is a popular spot for visitors. The area is a short and lovely 20-minute drive from Friday Harbor. Most visitors travel to the island for its beautiful gardens, cobblestone walkways, and the historic hotel. But deep in the woods of Roche Harbor lies an equally fascinating and unusual tombstone site: the Mausoleum.
Formerly known as the McMillin Mausoleum, this Afterglow Vista is an elaborate final resting spot for John S. McMillin and his family. McMillin operated a successful lime works in Washington and made plans to create the Afterglow Vista. He and his family are often attributed for developing Roche Harbor.
John McMillian was a religious man who took great pride in his family. His effort to build an elaborate mausoleum structure was in hopes of preserving the family name. This open air space centers around a massive limestone table. Every piece of the structure is rooted in symbolism. The creation stands at the top of three flights of stairs: the first set representing the three phases of man's life, the second set representing the five senses, and the last set representing the seven days of the week.
If you look closely, you'll also notice that one of the supporting pillars is missing. This is not due to wear and tear, but was actually an intentional part of the design. The broken pillar represents the unfinished nature of man's life.
By far the most haunting features of the site is the round table, where each family member has been assigned a seat. Each chair holds the cremated ashes of the corresponding family member, and the backs of the chairs are actually headstones. This creates a striking and very morbid interpretation of this family dinner table.
The monument is strategically located in such a way that as the sun sets, the natural light creates an ethereal glow around the columns. During the late hours of the day, the name Afterglow Vista becomes increasingly fitting.
Afterglow Vista can be accessed by a short trail that will lead to an informational sign. Have you visited before? Be sure to share with us your experience there! For more mesmerizing sites in Washington, you won’t want to miss these
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