Afterglow Vista

A monumental open air structure constructed of limestone and marble surrounded by woods
Few burial places can compare to Afterglow Vista's grandeur

Kim Karu Photography

Quick Facts
Friday Harbor, WA
Afterglow Vista, also known as the McMillin Memorial Mausoleum, is the final resting place of Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company founder John S. McMillin and his immediate family and McMillin’s personal secretary who was key to his work and was like a member of his family. During his lifetime, McMillin was a major force in the local community; under his leadership, the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company became the largest producer of lime in the West Coast and the dominant force in the economy of San Juan Island.

This massive burial structure houses the remains of six members of his family and combines neoclassical elements with masonic symbolism. Surrounding its open air rotunda are six chairs on which the names of the individual buried under the chair are written surrounding a limestone table. Symbolically, this is supposed to represent the family dinner table and the unity of the McMillins during life and death.  Each chair has a corresponding column representing each individual along with a broken column which represents the unfinished work left behind after one's death. Afterglow Vista was an expensive project, costing $30,000 dollars at the time of its completion in 1936, which is approximately $640,000 in 2022 dollars. This expense led McMillin’s son who then led the company to cancel the installation of a monumental bronze roof which would have significantly increased its cost.

These are not the only symbolic features at Afterglow Vista; a plaque at the site explains that: “The structure is approached by two sets of stairs, representing the steps within the Masonic Order. The stairs on the east side of the mausoleum stand for the spiritual life of man. The winding in the path symbolizes that the future cannot be seen. The stairs were built in sets of three, five and seven. This represents the three stages of life (youth, manhood, age), the five orders of architecture (Tuscan, Doric, Iconic, Corinthian, Composite), the five senses, and the seven liberal arts and sciences (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). The columns were created to be the same size as those in King Solomon’s temple. The broken column represents the broken column of life-that man dies before his work is completed. The center of the mausoleum boasts the round table of limestone and concrete surrounded by six stone and concrete chairs. The chair bases are crypts for the ashes of the family, while the whole represents their reunion after death.”

Today, Afterglow Vista is a unique and beautiful place to visit. Located in deeply wooded land, visitors must traverse trails that lead through a much more modest cemetery where McMillin’s workers are buried. To get there from town, take Roche Harbor road left towards the sculpture park. Past the park and the runway there will be a be clearly marked trail with a wooden archway. On dark and foggy nights, it can be a haunting and otherworldly place, so we recommend that you bring flashlights to ward off any fears. While there, you can contemplate the immense wealth and power that the McMillin family once held and the powerful vision that created this unique space.

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Last updated: September 1, 2022