James L. Beech was a longtime resident of Ashford. He built this house in 1969 and lived in it till his passing in 1992. An accomplished pilot and pianist he had two grand pianos in the living room. He toured people around Mount Rainier in his airplane for years from the Hewitt airfield which was located where the Nisqually Lodge now stands.
He was married to Mildred Ashford, daughter of the early homesteaders Walter and Cora (see the attached Ashford Story that Jimmy wrote in the early 1980's).
After the house and land fell into disrepair for 20 years, it has now been restored with Jimmy in mind. The owners (Rick and Jana) are still in the process of replanting and landscaping with the foliage Jimmy used to enjoy so much. We love history and nature and are happy to be able to share this special, peaceful place with visitors by offering it as a vacation rental.
Walter Ashford was born in 1860 at Ipswich England. His wife-to-be, Cora Hershey, was born in Nebraska. The marriage took place in 1880. Mr. Ashford was a stationary engineer at the Old Tacoma Hotel in Tacoma. This historic landmark was later destroyed by fire in 1935.
The Ashfords homesteaded in the Nisqually Valley in 1888. By 1891 they had filed for and established the town site of Ashford. Early settlers had hoped to profit by the coal deposits, but they were of poor quality and never exploited.
Ashford built the first post office of split cedar planks and later, a grocery store, which is still standing,and a dance hall. Mrs. Ashford served as Postmaster for 35 years.
In years following, a water system served the town from both Mueller Creek and Ashford Creek, which were on the property. For many years their property was known as "Twinbrook Estate".
On a gold prospecting expedition, Mr. Ashford discovered and named Cora Lake for his wife, and Bertha Mae for his sisters.
Mrs. Ashford designed their home now known as the Ashford Mansion after a Georgian mansion she had seen on a visit to England.
Built in 1903, the twelve room dwelling is not ornate, but sturdily constructed of solid vertical grain Douglas fir which came from a local mill.
The three story structure has a central stairwell and generous balconies on east, west and south face.
The early years were harsh but rewarding. Twice monthly pack horse trips for supplies, venison available the year round, large gardens, plentiful fuel, and fresh trout which Mr. Ashford caught in minutes and fried on the huge wood range in the summer kitchen. This stove is still in daily use, and is an exact duplicate of one in Dwight Eisenhower's boyhood home in Texas.
The mansion served as a semi-private hotel for years. Many well-to-do families sent their children and governess for summer vacations.
Later on, three trains daily terminated at Ashford, with tourists for the recently established Mt. Rainier National Park. For years, until supplanted by the automobile, Mr. Ashford drove a horse drawn buggy to headquarters at Longmire. Part of the original pony trail is still to be seen east of the home.
An old register was found in the attic recently with the signatures of many notables, including Eugene Ricksecker, who engineered the present roads in Mt. Rainier National Park.
An outdoors pavilion, long gone, was just west of the home. It served for outdoor plays and activities put on by the local grade school.
An Ashford daughter, Zina, married W.S. Van Dyke, who was to become MGM's leading movie director in the 1920 and 1930 years. He was responsible for many epic productions, including Marie Antoninette, Trader Horn, and the Jeanette Mac Donald, Nelson Eddy productions which are still shown on television shows. Mr. Ashford financed their move to Hollywood in 1914, and was thus responsible for one of movielands most illustrious careers.
The elder Ashfords both died in the mid-thirties, and the mansion was then acquired by their youngest daughter, Mildred, who became Mrs. James Beech.
Mildred Ashford Beech was named for a close family friend and Godmother, Mildred Wallace. Mr. Wallace was ambassador to France in 1900. He donated the present chimes to the huge clock in the old city hall in Tacoma.
A grandson of Mr.Ashford, who built the air field east of the mansion, Mr. Walter Hewitt, lives in Eatonville, Washington.
After the death of Mildred Ashford Beech in 1967, the mansion passed through several owners to the present Walter and Jan Green family.
The mansion is emulating its English origin full circle as it continues the European tradition of "Bed and Breakfast".
The property is presently awaiting accreditation with the State Historical Society.
Written by James L. Beech