Five-year old Aaron Neely travelled on the Oregon and Overland Trails from Tennessee with his parents and two brothers settling in the White River Valley (now known as Kent). The Neely’s were among the earliest settlers in the area and played a major role in its development. By 1891, Aaron was a prominent landowner in Auburn and began the process of designing and constructing the two-story Victorian classic revival farmhouse, later known as the Neely Mansion. This unique home was completed in 1894. The Neely farm consisted of 284 surrounding acres on which he operated a dairy, planted potatoes and other crops, and started an orchard with apple, pear, and cherry trees.
The Neely family lived in the mansion less than 15 years, and then moved into the city of Auburn to obtain modern conveniences, such as electricity and plumbing. Aaron Neely leased the farm to several different families over the years. The first was Ernst Galli from Switzerland and his Swedish wife, Hannah Simu Galli. Two Galli sons, Teddy and Arnie, were born in the mansion. By 1914 the Galli’s had saved enough money to buy their own farm north of Auburn on the Green River. Next was Matasuke Fukuda and Toki Nakamura Fukuda, both of Japanese descent. Five of their 11 children were born while living at the mansion. The stock market crash in 1929 forced the Fukuda family to leave Washington State to find work in California. Later in 1929 Shigeichi and Shimano Hori leased the Neely property and lived there until 1936. In 1930 Mr. Hori built a furoba, a Japanese style bathhouse, behind the mansion. The bathhouse is still standing on the property. In the 1940’s during WW II, a few members of the Neely family lived in the mansion and leased part of the farm to Pete Acosta, a Filipino migrant worker. The Acosta family, Pete, his wife June Johnston, and daughter, Julie, lived in a small house nearby. After a few years the last of the Neely clan moved out, and single Filipino farm workers occupied the mansion. Pete farmed the land for decades, and finally retired from his successful farming venture in the late 1980’s.
By the 1970’s the Mansion had deteriorated to the point where the Auburn Arts Council acted to save and restore the building. After a few years they changed their focus, and could no longer continue the restoration. The Neely Mansion Association, a nonprofit historical society, was incorporated in August of 1983, and merged with the Auburn Arts Council in 1985 to take over ownership of the mansion. For thirty years the Neely Mansion Association has slowly worked to restore the mansion for the public. The house has been largely restored to its former glory, although the restoration is an ongoing project. Today, the Neely Mansion is listed on the National Register for Historic Places, the Washington State Register, and is a designated King County Landmark.