Bridget Hanley dies; family donated Log Cabin to the city

Actor starred in 'Here Comes the Brides,' 'Harper Valley PTA'


Last updated 12/28/2021 at 6:26pm

Bridget Hanley

Bridget Hanley was a small-town girl from Edmonds with grand dreams of making it big in Hollywood. And like Ana Faris, another Edmonds actor decades later, those dreams were realized through hard work and determination.

Hanley died Dec. 15 at age 80. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and recently received care from the staff at Harry's Haven at the Motion Picture Home in Calabasas, Calif.

Hanley is best remembered for her starring role as Candy Pruitt in "Here Come the Brides" on ABC. The Screen Gems production, which ran Sept. 25, 1968, to April 3, 1970, was centered in 1860s Seattle but mostly filmed in Los Angeles.

Locally, Hanley is remembered for her and her family's donating and then saving what is now known as the Log Cabin Visitors Center on Fifth Avenue North. She received a big assist from her sister, Molly Hanley Hopkins.

The official name of the cabin, run by the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, is the Ganahl-Hanley Cabin. It's staffed by volunteers.

Bridget Hanley was born Feb. 3, 1941, in Minneapolis, but spent her childhood in Edmonds and graduated from Edmonds High School, where she displayed her acting chops. She was also an athlete, as well as a Tigers cheerleader.

"She did all that stuff," said Bronwyn Swackhamer, one of Hanley's daughters. She spoke over the phone from her home in West Hollywood, Calif.

The log cabin

The story of the Edmonds log cabin is one of the most interesting in the city's history.

According to information from the Edmonds Historical Museum, the story begins when it was built in the early 1930s in Seaview Heights, then north of Edmonds city limits, for Gaston Alfred Beck Ganahl (1887-1958), who was born in St. Louis, Mo., and died in Seattle.

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Gaston lived in what was called his summer house, complete with a lighted tennis court. He built the log cabin to accommodate his frequent guests, taking his inspiration from rustic cabins he saw during a visit to Yellowstone National Park.

Ganahl sold the house, the orchard, and the cabin in 1945 to Lee and Dorie Hanley.

Ganahl then built another home on the remaining property, now the site of Seaview Elementary School.

The cabin became home to Lee's youngest brother, Homer Hanley, and his family of four for about a year.

In 1947, Dorie Hanley's parents, John and Thyra Nihlroos, moved from Illinois and made the cabin their permanent home. John, originally from Sweden, died at the age of 73 in 1959. Thyra lived in the cabin for a total of more than 25 years. During this time, the cabin took on its Swedish flare with John's handiwork, Thyra's flower boxes and gardens, and distinctive Swedish decor such as the cabinetry, shelves, and red trim.

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All three of the Hanley daughters, Bridget, Molly, and Mary Jo, spent much of their childhood there, although they never lived in the log cabin.

"It was actually our grandparents who lived in the log cabin," said Molly Hanley Hopkins. "The log cabin was part of our Hanley family property. We, as a family, lived in the main house."

In 1975, the Hanleys – understanding the importance of its history – donated the cabin to the City of Edmonds. Mayor Harve Harrison and the City Council accepted – they felt it would be an appropriate project for the country's Bicentennial.

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On Aug. 27, 1975, the cabin made a two-mile trip from the 8500 block of 188th Street SW to the town's center.

Telephone and electrical wire had to be disconnected at every intersection because of the high roof. At the end of the day, the cabin remained overnight at the foot of Maplewood Hill. On Aug. 28, it was set up next to the historic Andrew Carnegie Library, which now houses the Edmonds Historical Museum.

The museum's new home was the site of Edmonds' original City Hall, built in 1902.

On March 16, 1976, attorney Chet Bennett presented the completed project to the City Council. He noted that over 150 citizens and businesses had donated their time, labor, and materials to permanently establish the cabin in its new location.

The next day, Al Kincaid, president of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, set up new quarters for the Chamber in the "Bicentennial Pioneer" Log Cabin. Formal dedication came July 4, 1976.

Staffed primarily by volunteers, the cabin also housed the part-time executive directors until 1990, when it became the Visitors Information Center, created by the first consortium of the City of Edmonds, the Port of Edmonds, and the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce.

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When the cabin was moved, it was not placed on another stone foundation. The bottom logs rotted, as did several others due to the water from the window boxes and leaking gutters. The roof needed replacing by 1995, but the City chose not to repair it.

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In August 1998, the Algoma Garden Club, of which Dorie Hanley had been a member, started an effort to restore the cabin. The Save Our Cabin Committee was officially started three months later under the umbrella of the Edmonds-South Snohomish Historical Society.

Fundraising for over $80,000 was begun in earnest. In September 1999, the newly named Ganahl-Hanley Log Cabin was officially added to the Washington Heritage Register, validating its unique history.

In July 2000, construction of a new foundation and roof plus log and floor replacement was underway, finishing the following October.

The grassroots effort was accomplished with the help of hundreds of supporters but, as directed by the City's contract, without City public funds. A plaque inside the cabin lists many of the people and grantors.

The Hanley family and the donors presented the restored Cabin to the City once again in November 2000, just over 25 years after the first time.

Hanley attended the restored dedication with daughters Bronwyn and Molly.

"We would go up to Edmonds every year," said Bronwyn. "We would drive from L.A. with my dad and my mom and my little sister. We would come up in our 1969 Cougar and stay with my Grandpa Lee and Grandma Dori in Edmonds. And that's where the cabin was, on that (Seaview) property."


Acting career

After graduating from the University of Washington with a drama degree, Bridget Hanley moved to San Francisco, where she appeared in a production of "Private Lives." That led to a lead role in a touring company of "Under the Yum Yum Tree."

Soon after, she signed a contract with Los Angeles agent Hal Gefsky. She became a contract player at the Screen Gems production company and was seen in many TV episodes before landing a role on "Here Come the Brides."

Her other big role came as Wanda Taylor of "Harper Valley PTA" with Barbara Eden. Hanley continued to work in television through the early 1990s with guest spots on many shows, including "The Odd Couple," "Nanny and the Professor," "Welcome Back, Kotter," and others.

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While under contract at Screen Gems, she met director E. W. Swackhamer, and they wed in 1969. They had two daughters – Bronwyn and Megan Gefsky – and remained married until Swackhamer's death in 1994.

Hanley remained active in the acting community in her later years.

"She was really well-known in theater through Theater West in Hollywood," Bronwyn said. "She did quite a bit with them. And she spent a lot of time volunteering with the Actors Fund. So she was really active helping actors and theater. "

Bronwyn will especially miss her mom this Christmas.

Brian Soergel

The Log Cabin Visitors Center on Fifth Avenue North in Edmonds.

"At Christmas, she would decorate the house to the nines. It was like a winter wonderland in our house. The handmade things she just made looked beautiful. She was just wonderful. And she loved to entertain and cook for big crowds. Caviar pie was one of the hits. She was a really wonderful hostess. She was a pretty great lady."


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