The story of Roche Harbor began over 200 years ago, in 1787, when Captain Lopez de Haro and his crew became the first Europeans to actually sail among the forested San Juan Islands. Haro Strait, dividing the United States from Vancouver Island, derives its name from this Spanish explorer. The dispute lay dormant during the American Civil War, but by 1871 the United States and Great Britain selected Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm to arbitrate the dispute. In 1872, Wilhelm awarded possession of the San Juan Islands to the United States.
There was no development at Roche Harbor until John S. McMillin, a Tacoma lawyer, discovered the richest and largest deposit of lime in the Northwest at Roche Harbor. By 1886, the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company had been incorporated and became a large scale business. McMillin built the 20-room Hotel de Haro in 1886 around the original Hudson Bay Post with its one foot thick log walls. Head into the lobby and ask the front desk to see the still exposed logs. By 1890, the company town had grown up around the magnificent hotel. It consisted of a completely modern lime factory, a barrel works, warehouse, docks, ships and piers, offices, company store, church, school, barns, and homes.