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A camp, a castle and a courtship

The story behind Thornewood Castle

night stays close to JBLM with a history that dates back 100+ years. Photo courtesy

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Tucked behind a moss, encrusted brick wall, sits an imposing 500- year-old Tudor, gothic mansion, the only English castle in the Pacific Northwest, and, just across the bustling I-5 corridor, sits the imposing Joint Base Lewis-McChord, considered the 7th largest city in Washington state.  To see what these seemingly disparate entities have in common, you must look back in time 100 years ago.

In 1907, Chester Thorne, a prominent banker and well-respected civic leader, purchased a 400-year-old manor from England and had it dismantled and shipped back to Washington.  He commissioned the famous architect, Kirtland Kelsey Cutter, to manage the three-year project that was to become Thornewood Castle.  Known as "the house that love built", Thorne gifted the castle and especially its gardens, to his wife Anna.  They resided at the home with their daughter Anita.

Photo courtesy

Chester Thorne was one of many Pierce County citizens advocating the passing of a bond issue to purchase 70,000 acres of land for the Army on the banks of American Lake.  This is the only time in the history of the United States that a local community donated land for the purpose of building a military base. That sense of support among the military and civilian community exists to this day.

Shortly before building began on Camp Lewis, Capt. David L. Stone arrived at the construction site to take charge. He was considered a go-getter and a careful steward of the government's money.  Construction began in June of 1917 and in 90 days, 1,500 buildings were completed as well as roads, streets, and a modern sewer system.  Camp Lewis was the first of the Army Camps built during WWI to open, and came in at the lowest price. During this time, Capt. Stone became good friends with the Thorne family. 

The iconic "Liberty Gate" was designed by Kirtland Kelsey Cutter, whose design won the competition to design the entrance way to the new camp.  It is thought that Thorne recommended Cutter. The Hurley-Mason workers who built the camp donated the money for the gate.  It reflects the design of early Pacific Northwest blockhouses and has similarities to old Fort Nisqually.  The "Liberty Gate", it has become a symbol of JBLM and has been used in countless tour guides, postcards and photos.

Chester and his daughter Anita often toured the camp on horseback with Stone.  Meanwhile, Anna became involved in the YWCA Hostess House at the camp.  She is prominently mentioned by name for her work in the book, The Ninety-First, First at Camp Lewis by Alice Henderson.   From the book, "It is to Mrs. Chester Thorne that the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the charming place owe this beautiful building, the only one at Camp Lewis that is beautiful."

The Thornes continued to live at Thornewood Castle, and the family now included Anita's husband Cadwallader Corse and their three children. The now Lt. Col. Stone was transferred and went on to a successful Army career built on the reputation he earned during his time at Camp Lewis.  Stone kept in contact with the Thornes and especially Anita during the 1920s and 1930s.  

Upon the death of his wife in 1929 and learning that Anita Thorne was now divorced, Brig. Gen. Stone and Anita began courting.  The two married Jan. 1, 1936, in a society wedding at Thornewood Castle celebrated by the Fort Lewis chaplain.  After a honeymoon in California, Anita became an Army wife.  For his final assignment, Maj. Gen. Stone returned to Fort Lewis where he lived on post in Quarters 1, the commanding general's home.  Upon retirement, he and Anita moved into Thornewood Castle.  Their love story continued until his death in 1959 and she followed in 1994, nine months short of her 100th birthday.  They are buried side by side in the Fort Lewis Cemetery.

Thornewood Castle survived some tough years but was lovingly restored by the Robinson family and turned into a bed and breakfast.  In 2001, the Stephen King movie, Rose Red was filmed at Thornewood.  Fort Lewis went from a bustling WWI camp to a fort, and today, JBLM.  The 100th anniversary of JBLM will be celebrated throughout 2017 with events in both the military and civilian communities.

Thornewood Castle, open for lodging only, is at 8601 N. Thorne Ln. SW, Lakewood, (253) 584-4393,

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