Stories of five families chronicled in video and live performance

Staci Bernstein, If These Walls Could Talk © 2012 Becka Brebner Photography

If you’ve driven along SR 18 past Auburn, you’ve seen that wedding cake house that guards the entrance to Green Valley Road. It’s the 120-year-old Neely Mansion, built by Aaron Neely for his growing family back when birds chirping and horses clip-clopping by were the only sounds for miles around. The mansion looks well-tended since its restoration in the late 1970s, but in recent years it’s been a little sleepy, almost dormant.

All that changed last Saturday night when, lights ablaze, the Neely welcomed a big crowd of folks from Auburn and all over King County to a film premier and open house for “If These Walls Could Talk.”  A recently re-energized Neely Mansion Association, with the support of 4Culture’s Historic Site(s) Specific, began work on this project only last spring.  The Association turned to filmmaker Staci Bernstein and theater director Jane Kaplan, who teamed up to produce a wonderful film about the five families that lived in the house from 1894 into the 1970s.  A connecting thread woven through all of their lives, and featured in the film, was the motivation of immigrants to find permanence in their new surroundings.

Seeing and hearing those poignant stories of Swiss, Japanese, and Filipino tenant farmers who called the Neely Mansion home, made the historic house come alive again. In addition to three showings of the film in the parlor, guests wandered into the dining room and upstairs to the bedrooms where staged vignettes with live actors made the stories all the more real.  Stay tuned for information on how to access “If These Walls Could Talk” in the near future, and for news on more exciting changes at the Neely Mansion.

For more information about the Historic Site(s) Specific Program, a collaboration of Arts, Heritage, and Preservation 4Culture, contact Charlie Rathbun, at 206-296-8675 or sign up for our Site Specific E-News.

Scenes from If These Walls Could Talk, Staci Bernstein and Jane Kaplan, 2012 © Becka Brebner