Ashley House
Find Your Place

About Ashley House

Learn about two very different people who fought for freedom and liberty – and changed our history.  

What makes the Ashley House a special place?
The Ashley House tells the intertwined stories of the Ashleys and the enslaved African Americans who lived here in the 18th century.

Col. John Ashley built the house in 1735, and spent the next decades accumulating wealth and land. By the time of his death in 1802, Ashley owned more than 3,000 acres – including the land that is now The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble. Ashley supported the American Revolution, heading a committee that wrote the fiery Sheffield Resolves, a petition against British tyranny and manifesto for individual rights, in 1773. His financial success was based in part on the labor of five enslaved African Americans.  

Inspired by Revolutionary-era rhetoric and her own desire for freedom, Mum Bett, who was enslaved in the Ashley House, helped end slavery in Massachusetts. In 1781, she sued Col. Ashley for her freedom – and won. Mum Bett was and remains an inspiration to all who learn her story. 

Today, the Ashley House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and an anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. It contains fine collections of redware, furniture, and tools. The Ashley House is adjacent to Bartholomew’s Cobble Reservation, which offers five miles of scenic trails.

The Ashley House is part of the Berkshire 18th Century Trail.

Trails
At Bartholomew’s Cobble, five miles of moderate hiking; some may find the climb to 1,000-ft. Hurlburt’s Hill strenuous.

When to Visit
Grounds:
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. House: See events listing for dates/times for house tours.

Allow a minimum of 1 hour for the Ashley House, 3 hours if also visiting Bartholomew's Cobble.

Facilities
The Ashley House gift shop sells post cards and several books on Mum Bett. Public restrooms are located nearby in the visitors center at The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble.

Regulations & Advisories

  • Photography is not permitted inside the house.

  • Dogs are not allowed on the property.

Directions

117 Cooper Hill Road, Ashley Falls
Sheffield, MA 01257
Telephone: 413.229.8600
E-mail: westregion@ttor.org

Latitude: 42.0569
Longitude: -73.355

Get directions on Google Maps.

From Mass Turnpike (I-90), Exit 2 for Rt. 20 East. Follow 4.6 mi., then take first right onto Rt. 102 West/Pleasant St. Go 6.6 mi. Turn left onto Rt. 7 South. After 8.5 mi., turn right onto Rt. 7A and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Rannapo Rd. and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn right onto Cooper Hill Rd. to entrance and parking (10 cars) on left. Please do not park along Cooper Hill Rd.

Admission

When to Visit
Grounds: Open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. House: See events listing for dates/times for house tours.

Allow a minimum of 1 hour for the Ashley House, 3 hours if also visiting Bartholomew's Cobble.

Fees
Grounds: Free to all.

House Tours: Trustees Members: FREE. Nonmembers: Adult $5, Child FREE. Group rates offered for special programs and vary depending on program; call or email for more information.

Property History

In 1735, at the age of 25, Colonel John Ashley built this house – the oldest house still standing in Berkshire County – for his Dutch bride, Hannah Hogeboom. The Ashley House was the center of social, economic, and political life in Western Massachusetts in the 18th century. The famous Sheffield Resolves, a petition against British tyranny and a manifesto for individual rights, was drafted in the upstairs study of the house and published in 1773.

The cause for abolishing slavery in America was strengthened in the celebrated 1781 Massachusetts state court battle that freed the Ashleys’ slave, Elizabeth Freeman (nicknamed “Mum Bett”). Inspired by Revolutionary-era rhetoric and her own desire for freedom, Mum Bett, who was enslaved in the Ashley House, helped end slavery in Massachusetts. In 1781, she sued Col. Ashley for her freedom – and won. Mum Bett was and remains an inspiration to all who learn her story. Learn more about Elizabeth Freeman's fight for freedom >>

In 1930, the Ashley House was moved from its original location next to the Housatonic River to its present site on Cooper Hill Road.

Property Acquisition History
The Trustees purchased the property in 1972.

 

Archival Collections
Archival material related to the Ashley House is available to researchers at the Archives & Research Center in Sharon, Massachusetts.

Col. Ashley House, Inc. Archive
(1.5 linear feet)
Records of the organization that managed the Colonel John Ashley House from 1959 until it was purchased by The Trustees of Reservations in 1972.

Ashley House Col. John Ashley Papers
(1.5 linear feet)
Three account books regarding Sheffield, MA area, 1755-1818.

Ashley House Collection
(0.25 linear feet)
Materials regarding Colonel John Ashley House, 1738-1958.
Unprocessed collection.

The Archives & Research Center welcomes donations of documents, manuscripts, records, photographs, maps and memorabilia that pertain to a particular property. Please contact us at 781.784.8200 or arc@ttor.org.

Programs

Tours
Visit this anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail where Mum Bett took a courageous stand for freedom that helped end slavery in Massachusetts. Explore Colonial life and times of the Ashley family. The Ashley House is open seasonally for weekend guided tours and for groups by advance reservation. For the current schedule, please check the link to our events calendar. Allow a minimum of 1 hour for the Ashley House, 3 hours if also visiting Bartholomew's Cobble. Members: FREE. Nonmembers: Adult $5, Child FREE. Pre-booked group house tours for 15 or more receive a discount; call 413.298.3239 x3013.

Conservation and Stewardship

Management Planning for Our Properties
 


Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
 


  • Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources. 

  • Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.

  • Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.

  • Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.


View Ashley House management plan.

Maps and Resources

Literature

Mum Bett: The Story of Elizabeth Freeman, If They Close the Door on You, Go in the Window, and African American Heritage in the Housatonic Valley are available for sale during house tour hours. It can also be mail ordered over the phone by calling the Berkshires Regional Office at 413.229.8600.

More information about Mum Bett can be found at:

Additional resources:



Private Functions

Private functions may be arranged for groups of up to 40 people; call 413.298.3239 x3013 or e-mail westregion@ttor.org or more information.

Planning Your Visit

Travel Links
Berkshire Links.com
See the Berkshires
Berkshire Visitor's Bureau
Berkshire Web
Getaway the Berkshires

Community Links
Berkshires On-line

Before You Visit
We encourage you to visit as many Trustees properties as you can.

Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:

  • Protect wildlife and plants.
  • Guard against all risk of fire.
  • Help keep air and water clean.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
  • Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
  • Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
  • Enjoy and share the landscape with others.

Click on links below for further visitor information:

Before Setting Out

Enjoying Trustees Reservations

Safety

About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land

Tell Us What You Think

We’d love to hear about your visit! Here are three easy ways to let us know what you think:

  1. Take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us, you can ask us in the survey and we’ll get back to you.

  2. Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.

  3. Share your experiences with other visitors on our website. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll post your comment right here on this page.


Submitted by The Trustees on: November 5, 2013
Chris, Thanks for your comment. We'll pass this along to the right folks here. Not sure about what's been considered as far as naming goes...would imagine that's been talked about though. Thanks!



Submitted by Chris on: November 4, 2013
Such a beautiful old home. Viewed in passing after hiking the Cobble nearby. A question: has consideration ever been given to renaming the site (in whole or in shared billing) to honor the truly historic hero of that home, Elizabeth "Mum Bett" Freeman?



Submitted by Cynthia on: August 17, 2012
We are part of the Ashley family and have the genealogy book with him in it. If you are interested, it is also available online.



Submitted by Edward A. Brewer on: December 28, 2009
Stopped by on Sunday. My great-grandfather was Edward Arthur Brewer who lived in the Ashley House. Would love to learn more about the house, family, etc. Please advise. Jeremy Brewer Clarke, Jr.



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Announcements & Alerts
Upcoming Things To Do
Saturday, July 26
Ashley House Tours

Sunday, July 27
Ashley House Tours

Saturday, August 2
Ashley House Tours

Other Trustees Properties You Might Like:

The Mission House
Stockbridge, MA

Naumkeag
Stockbridge, MA

William Cullen Bryant Homestead
Cummington, MA


Ashley House in the News

36 Hours in the Berkshires
Jul 3 – The New York Times

Liberty for All - Elizabeth Freeman's Journey
Mar 10 – American Spirit