The Acheson Cabin Needs Your Help 

History of the cabin:

Lila Bell Acheson, born in 1887, moved with her family to Tacoma in 1908. They built a summer cabin on Fox Island. She later taught school on the island during the 1910-1911 school year. In 1912 Lila ran the YWCA camp on Fox Island.

In 1977 the owners of the property where the Acheson cabin stood gave the building to the Fox Island Historical Society. Personal letters to Lila from Eleanor Kibler and Elsie Schmidt renewed her interest in Fox Island. Lila responded to the letter about the cabin saying:

'Let me tell you a little of the background story. My parents wanted to build a house on the Island but my brother and sisters and I wanted a log cabin. As we always did when the family couldn't agree on something, we took a vote – and we children won. Consequently, my brother, who was home from college during the summer, and doing carpentry work to earn money for his next semester, built the cabin. Daddy didn't build it himself – my brother, with the help of his friends, did – but Daddy provided all the money for it.'

Subsequently, Lila presented the historical society with a generous financial contribution to move and restore the cabin, and later a contribution to build the Fox Island Museum. Lila died in 1984 at her home in High Winds, NY. She was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Art in 1992.

Lila’s Cabin – then and now

Under the direction of Dave McHugh and his company, historical society members and volunteers tackled the task of moving the cabin to the museum site in 1977. The cabin is a one-story, one-room structure with loft sleeping, constructed of saddle-notched logs of varying diameters. The building measures approximately 16 feet in width and 20 feet in depth with approximately 326 square feet of interior space. The interior sleeping loft provides about 204 square feet of living space. The cabin was constructed with stacked logs requiring no nails or fasteners for the wall circuit. The roof structure is wood-framed with two-inch milled lumber equivalent to modern 2 X 4 framing. The gable ends are also wood-framed with milled lumber. The roof and gable ends are sheathed with one-inch skip sheathing and covered with cedar shingles. The interior side of the roof and the gable ends are unsheathed exposing the framing members. After moving the cabin to the museum grounds, volunteers cleaned the bricks and Bob Samuelson directed the restoration of the fireplace and chimney. In 2007, Grulich Architecture prepared a comparative analysis of old cabin photographs and the current cabin, concluding that the existing cabin retained its historic integrity. In 2009 a new cedar roof was put on.

Good News!  On April 16, 2016, the Fox Island Historical Society celebrated inclusion of our 1908 log cabin, originally owned by the Lila Acheson family (later married to DeWitt Wallace and co-founded The Reader's Digest) into the Washington State Historic Registry, including unveiling of a brass plaque.

The cabin is currently in need of the following: replace rotted logs, replace the deck skirting, chink the logs on the exterior, replace failing floor boards, create an ADA entrance to the front door, repair a broken window, and add some cosmetic work inside.

Benefits to our community: The preservation of an original historic log cabin as part of the Fox Island Museum’s mission will create a venue for sharing living history with our community and recognize an outstanding woman in the island’s story.

Plan of action: Our group will begin a capital campaign to raise money for preserving the cabin. This will take the form of increasing memberships, fund-raising, searching for donors, and grant writing.

How you can help: 1) Become a museum member, 2) Volunteer, 3) Make a donation to the museum for the cabin’s restoration, 4) Spread the word of this worthy project.

Leave a Reply