Learn about two very different people who fought for freedom and liberty—and changed our region’s history.
Once the center of white political and social life in colonial Sheffield, today the Ashley House is remembered for its connection to Elizabeth Freeman, who was enslaved there before winning her freedom and dealing a deathblow to the institution of slavery in Massachusetts.
The Colonel John Ashley House – an anchor site of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail – was one of the first European-style dwellings built in what is now the Berkshires. Col. Ashley became a wealthy and powerful man, owning 3,000 acres of land and a variety of business, in addition to holding many town offices. His success relied largely on slavery. In addition to enslaving at least five people himself, Ashley profited handsomely from the international slave trade. As the American Revolution dawned, Ashley hypocritically joined calls declaring mankind “equal, free, and independent of each other.”
In 1781, Elizabeth put the Revolutionary rhetoric to the test, leaving the Ashley House and suing for emancipation. Elizabeth not only won her own freedom, her case set a judicial precedent that ended slavery in Massachusetts. She never returned to the Ashley House, but today you can visit an outdoor exhibit (open seasonally) to learn more about her incredible life and legacy.
Re-experience these important historical events on a tour of the Ashley House. Along with a selection of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, tools, and redware, you’ll learn about the American Revolution, the region’s history of slavery, and the lives and legacies of Col. Ashley and Mum Bett.
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.
More information about Elizabeth Freeman can be found at:
Grounds: Free to all.
When to Visit
Grounds: Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset.
House: There are no house tours scheduled for the remainder of the season. Check back later in the year for updates.
Guided house tours are available on July 24th, August 21st and September 18th. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Sign up here:Guided House Tours
Allow a minimum of 1/2 hour for the Ashley House grounds, 2-3 hours if also visiting Bartholomew’s Cobble.
117 Cooper Hill Road, Ashley Falls
Sheffield, MA 01257
Telephone: 413.298.3239 x3016
From Mass Turnpike (I-90), Exit 10 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.
Public restrooms are located nearby in the visitors center at The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble.
Please note that the visitors center is closed at this time.
Private functions may be arranged for groups of up to 40 people. Call 413.298.3239 x3013 for more information.
Weekend trip featuring Massachusetts history, scenic vistas, and a cozy inn.
From the Colonial Era to the Modern Movement, our historic homes represent architecture, design, and history that spans more than 300 years.
In Massachusetts, people and the land are of each other, inextricably woven together to form the tapestry of our long history together.
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 cause for abolishing slavery in America was strengthened in the celebrated 1781 Massachusetts state court battle that freed the Ashleys’ slave, Elizabeth Freeman (formerly known as Mum Bett). 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.
Since we were in the area and are members of The Trustees of Reservations, we discovered this wonderful house and the fascinating story of Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman, a black slave who sued for her freedom in 1780 and won (with a jury of 12 white men).
– Bcnett, Trip Advisor Review
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