Monthly Archives: December 2015

The History of Roche Harbor

Photo Courtesy of nwseaplanes.com

Photo Courtesy of nwseaplanes.com

Roche Harbor is a picturesque little seaside town located on the Northwestern side of San Juan Island. It is frequently referred to as the most beautiful harbor in the Northwest. Like many small towns in Washington State, Roche Harbor had humble beginnings. In 1884, a Tacoma lawyer named John S. McMillin discovered a large deposit of lime in the area. Lime used to be a major component in the production of steel, plaster, and cement, and the deposit at Roche Harbor quickly became an important driver of local industry. Two years later, in 1886, the 20-room Hotel de Haro was built to accommodate the growing industry-related population at Roche Harbor. The historic hotel is still operating, and guests interested in booking a room can do so here: http://www.rocheharbor.com/lodging/hotel-de-haro . The lone hotel soon saw a town spring up around it to house the lime workers and their families. At its peak, Roche Harbor had roughly 800 residents and was completely independent, with autonomous power, water, and telephone systems. The workers were paid in scrip that could only be spent at the company store, and this system of payment was still in use when the town was sold in 1956 to a Seattle businessman named Reuben J. Tarte. Tarte restored the hotel and lime warehouse, helping to turn the town into a resort for boating families. Many of our charter guests enjoy visiting Roche Harbor to view its original structures and historical lime kilns. A self-guided tour provides a leisurely walk and the chance to stretch your legs while surrounded by the beauty of the San Juan Islands. In addition to serving as a scenic opportunity to spend some time in the San Juans and off your charter boat, Roche Harbor also serves as a designated port of entry for guests returning from their explorations of the Southern Gulf Islands.