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The museum was originally built as a mansion home for Sam Hill though his family resisted moving to so desolate a place. Samuel Hill had hoped to start an utopian Quaker agricultural community "where the sunshine of the east meets the rain of the west." A wealthy Seattle lawyer, railroad executive, financial manager, and investor, Sam was known for his ambition, energy and integrity.
Sam Hill left a legacy of philanthropy, monuments,
and highways including the Columbia River Highway which Sam helped persuade
the state of Oregon to build and a test highway — the first paved road
in Washington State — near the Museum.