The Acheson Cabin
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.
Benefits to our community: The preservation of this historic log cabin as part of the Fox Island Historical Society’s mission creates a functional community asset to enrich life on Fox Island and that of the greater community.
Dixie Lee Ray Exhibit
The Museum’s exhibits include mementos of Fox Island resident Dixy Lee Ray, first woman governor of Washington State from 1977-1981. The Ray family spent summers on rural Fox Island near Tacoma. This early exposure to nature was formative to Dixy Lee, who later credited the hours out of doors with her attraction to science. At age 12 she climbed Mount Rainier, the youngest girl on record to have done so at that time. The Fox Island Museum has the largest collection of Dixy Lee Ray artifacts.