In the early 1920’s, Robert A. Long and a small group of lumber barons from Kansas City, Missouri set their sites on moving Long-Bell Lumber Company west. Timber stands in the South were depleted after WWI, and the old growth forests in the Northwest would allow company expansion. The swampy area of what is today Longview was one of three sites considered. Longview was chosen because of its access to river and rail transportation and because of the nearby forests that would sustain the planned lumber mill. The vision of Long-Bell Lumber Company executives was to create a city and develop enough industry to sustain an eventual population of 50,000 people.
John D. Tennant, vice president of Long-Bell, was responsible for the construction of the lumber mill, Longview’s first industry. The building of the mill and its management were Tennant’s contribution to the grand plan. Subsequently, Tennant’s wife and two children needed a home locally, a home that reflected the grandeur of the vision held by this group of men. Mt. Solo was the chosen site.
The 13,000 sq. ft., English colonial house, was first occupied February 1, 1927. Built on a 50-acre home site, the three-story home was entirely framed from Douglas fir manufactured at Longview. The siding is all Longview cut cedar. The central grand stairway and the surrounding panel is gumwood shipped from the southern states. The foundation, faced in stone, aid the two large chimneys are constructed of rock quarried from Mt. Solo. In what was once the library, one of the largest single displays of grainart can be found. Grainart was a small side business of Long-Bell Lumber Co. As an art form, a pattern was laid over wood panels, then the wood was gently sandblasted. Customers could choose the design and size of panel for a fee ranging from $.25 to $10.00, dealer cost. The technique proved too expensive, once the great depression hit, and was later abandoned by Long-Bell.
Luxury and spaciousness were not spared in the construction of the Tennant mansion. The seven bedrooms, most with private tiled bathrooms and some with fireplaces allowed for privacy and quiet. The fireplaces are faced with imported. French tiles, all depicting scenes from the out-of-doors. Even the radiator covers are works of art, wood panels crafted with intricate designs of dragons and flowers. The third floor ballroom, now a wedding chapel, was the site of many grand affairs during the lifetime of the Tennants’.
Following J.D. Tennant’s death in 1949, the family sold The Mansion and a succession of changes occurred. For eighteen years it was a nursing home. In 1972, Reuben Grendahl, the fourth owner, purchased the home for his family. The Grendahl family lived in The Mansion for a short time; then with the death of his wife, the family moved into the carriage house across the driveway. Reuben rented The Mansion as a girl’s home and later a meeting facility for a church. In 1994, he leased it as a restaurant and a bed and breakfast.
After retirement from the merchant marines and with his children grown, Reuben’s second career has been to restore and preserve The Mansion. In 1997, at the age of 71 years, Reuben took over the management of the restaurant and bed & breakfast. When not managing the restaurant he is constantly overseeing new projects: the construction of the retaining wall at the front lawn, enclosing the porch for additional restaurant seating, adding on the veranda, digging out a wine cellar, and building a newly constructed shop. The many beautiful rugs in The Mansion were collected from Reuben’s world travels. Reuben’s philosophy for life is that everyday one must wake up and have something in mind to accomplish.
In 2016 Eric and Mariko Thompson purchased the home, becoming the fifth owner. Their current goal is to re-open the mansion as a Bed and Breakfast, and continue Reuben’s work to keep this piece of history alive and vibrant in the community.
The Tennants named the long driveway up to The Mansion Rutherglen Road. The Mansion is now officially named The Rutherglen Mansion; it is on the historic registry.