The views rival any in town, the custom ironwork on its balconies and three-story spiral staircase was forged in Philadelphia, and the huge, lovely rooms still echo a history warmed by jazz-band parties and the big Irish family that has called it home for 50 years.
In June, the Berwind-Purcell House on Lone Oak Road was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places.
"We were not aware of the uniqueness of the architecture when we first bought it," said retired Longview attorney Wayne Purcell, who bought the property in 1959.
"We just knew it was a lovely home, with beautiful wood floors ...
"And lots of bedrooms," said his wife, Joyce.
The Purcells had seven children when they moved in; two more would be born in the early 1960s.
Built in 1938 by Edward "Ned" Berwind on what was then known as Finn Hill, the French Renaissance Revival home has 10,000 square feet, with seven bedrooms, six bathrooms and five fireplaces.
When the Purcells purchased the house, the property included 34 acres high above Longview.
In 2007, Teresa Purcell, the youngest of the Purcells' nine children, bought the house and 7 1/2 acres surrounding it. Her parents kept 4 1/2 acres; the remaining acreage had been sold early on to Pope and Talbot Paper Co.
Teresa recently toured the house with a reporter and talked about why she applied for the designation. To earn it, a property must be at least 50 years old and have historical significance and distinctive architecture.
Once accepted, a house becomes part of a permanent, searchable database full of architectural and other details, according to the National Register of Historic Places. It is also eligible for financial incentives and other support for preservation and maintenance.
Cowlitz Historical Museum Director David Freece suggested that Washington State architectural historian Michael Hauser see the Berwind-Purcell house, Teresa said.
It was Hauser who urged her to do the research and apply.
Guidelines in hand, Teresa pored over 300 pages of correspondence and "mind-boggling" specifications. Her final application was two inches thick.
"A, it was fun to know more about all this history and lore," she said, "and B, it was a way to honor Mom and Dad, and the fact that they raised all these kids in a house this beautiful ...
"You have to visualize kids playing football in the hallway, pig piles in the living room and Girl Scouts running around outside on the lawn. The legacy of this house is its use. For me, that was part of pursuing it."
A hidden treasure
The Berwind-Purcell residence is a French country house that reclines in the green woods, with an interior as inviting as a cabin. The house has thrived for 72 years, mostly unchanged, but "people don't know it's here," Teresa said.
Tall hedges line the road and the house is set down a slope and at a remove. "Mr. B was so private about everything," she said, using a familiar title for Berwind.
Cars take a winding driveway to a large paved courtyard and garages at the back side of the house. The front, with a stone fire pit and two stone terraces reached by separate brick stairways, faces a long slope of lawn and two distinct views of the city and the Columbia River.
"On a really clear day you can see Mount Hood." Teresa said. "Everything was intentional."
Berwind's intentions were realized thanks to a fortune mined from Pennsylvania coal and polished by tradition and taste.
Ned Berwind was the son of Edward Julius Berwind, a partner in the Berwind-White Coal Company who died in 1936, a year before Ned began building the Lone Oak manse.
A yellowing, 1942 AP story in the TDN archives reports that the elder Berwind's estate was appraised at $31.5 million, the estimated equivalent of a billion dollars today.
Ned Berwind brought more than money to the Lone Oak house and the Longview community.
After coming to Longview in 1933 to learn about the pulp division at Weyerhaeuser, the 24-year-old Berwind decided to stay and married Jean "Jeansie" Morse within the year.
He was a Princeton grad, a founder and fervent booster of Lower Columbia College who funded college for needy youths and at 31 received a Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In his late 20s, working with architects C. Clark Zantzinger of Philadelphia and Carl F. Gould of Seattle, Berwind mapped a residence in the French Eclectic Style, a fashionable choice in the '30s and '40s but a rarity in the Northwest.
The plans laid out a graceful series of hip roofs with inlaid gutters, slate shingles, deep eaves and dental moulding.
The original windows are still in place, although Teresa Purcell is gradually replacing some with energy-efficient, custom-made replicas.
Upstairs, slim French doors open onto distinctive wrought-iron balconies and two dormer windows frame a recessed window.
Downstairs, the living room's large picture window is framed in slender windows divided by two vertical rows of panes, a motif throughout.
In the exterior's most prominent design feature, a bow window in front rises two stories. The art-deco bay is framed in aluminum and its panes are filled with curved glass.
"That will never be changed," Teresa said.
Swing dancing, politics and flashlight wars
Ned Berwind paid attention to every detail in the Lone Oak house, but he and his family never really lived in it. At that time the five-mile distance from town was a burden, so he chose a residence on Kessler Boulevard and used the country house as a summer getaway, a place for parties where swing bands played, and a guest residence for friends.
It's kind of amazing how little the Purcells did to the place once they moved in.
They lived there for 20 years before remodeling the servants quarters, with its tiny kitchen, butler's pantry and maid's sitting room, into a kitchen and family room.
They had to tear up and replace the stone terraces and replace the oil furnace and electrical wiring. Otherwise, that's about it.
For instance, Teresa and her mother said that the immaculate pale blue living room walls were repainted only once, the year the family moved in.
She has kept the art deco Vitrolite glass tile in the master bath, silk tapestries the Berwinds hung in the stairwell, her parents' white-and-gold dining room set that seats 12, and in the blue-and-cream front room, the furniture, rug, valances and sheers.
The pristine, ruby velvet side chairs have never been reupholstered — in fact, they were bought second hand, Joyce said. And she and Wayne lived in the house until they were both 85 and never installed an elevator.
Their favorite spot?
Two: the library, with its Hudoke wood veneer panelling, peaked ceiling, fireplace and leather sofas that sigh when you sink down; and the sitting room off the master suite, which also has a fireplace.
"It's more intimate" than the rest of the house, Wayne said.
They converted that fireplace to gas, he said, "so we wouldn't have to haul wood up there and make a mess. We loved to sit there on a winter evening."
It also allowed them to close the door on youthful energy flowing from the downstairs game room to the bedrooms above.
Although one of the kids tipped over the davenport once and broke the front room's picture window, Teresa and her parents say that no Purcell child ever slid down that tempting, three-story balustrade.
"Not that we know of," Joyce said.
"I was a stern task master," Wayne added.
That doesn't mean the house was off-limits. Games and puzzles stuff the library cupboards, a pool table is in the game room, and the kids' friends were always welcome.
"In David's reign, the fad was flashlight wars," Wayne said, when their son and his buddies would turn off all the lights and chase through the place with only flashlights.
There was plenty of grown-up energy, too, with church meetings and Catholic Marriage Encounter workshops and the Purcells' longtime organizing for the Democratic party.
Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson visited the house on Lone Oak, said Wayne Purcell, who chuckled remembering an election night party years earlier.
As Adlai Stevenson lost to Eisenhower, he said, "Joyce spent the whole night sobbing. She even answered the door crying."
As their kids matured and started families, Joyce started a cousins summer camp, gathering grandkids for a week of projects — and setting their parents free.
The clan comes together for holidays, weddings, christenings and the annual Munchkin Athletic Club Fall Distance Classic — a competitive run up and down Columbia Heights.
When Wayne and Joyce moved to Canterbury Park three years ago, Teresa stepped in to take over with her partner, environmental activist Jim Young, and their dog Cedar.
Her eight siblings are fine with the arrangement, said Teresa, a University of Washington grad who has worked for 26 years in non-profits and political consulting from Olympia to Washington, D.C.
Happily ensconced here, Teresa stays linked by computer with contracts in 34 states.
She's in perfect sync with her mother's antiques and color scheme. She talks in her father's legal cadence. And she holds the same political meetings and community-boosting events as her parents did.
What more could the Purcells wish for than an offspring committed to the form and function of this house?
"A, we loved living there," said Wayne Purcell, "and B, we loved sharing it with others."