, a once-thriving coal mining town in Washington State
is a place to peek into Pacific Northwest history. It is also a place where the warmth of welcome is the norm, not just some tourist promotion jargon.
|Building in Cle Elum, Washington|
and its next-door neighbor, Cle Elum,
are about two hours drive from western Washington’s Seattle
and an almost equal distance from the TriCities (Pasco, Kennewick and Richland)
in south-central Washington. The mid-Washington location is one reason why my childhood friend, Mary, and I chose them for our one-day girl’s getaway last week.
|The Cle Elum train station now houses a restaurant and historical displays|
The two of us also have ‘history’ here because we’d fallen under the area’s spell decades ago while college students. (Ellensburg, our old college town, is about 30 minutes drive from here.)
We were overjoyed to find that its magic was as powerful now as it had been, and it quickly wrapped us up all over again in its spell. . .
The Coal Mine Beginnings
|Tribute to Fallen Miners in front of the old "Company Store"|
Roslyn and Cle Elum are tucked away in the state’s Cascade Mountains. The coal discovered deep inside those mountains was needed to fuel Northern Pacific Railroad trains.
The first coal was shipped from Roslyn/Cle Elum area mines in 1886. In fact, the worst coal mine disaster in the state occurred in May 1892 at the Northern Pacific Coal Mine No.1 when an explosion and fire in the Roslyn mine (burrowed some 2,700 feet below ground) caused the death of 45 miners. Mining continued here until the last mine closed in 1962.
The Northwest Improvement Company Store
(‘the company store’), pictured above, was the hub of the Roslyn community back in the town’s mining heyday and today, just like the town’s historic district, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
|Roslyn, Washington cemetery|
The Roslyn Cemetery
, founded in 1886, is an amalgamation of some 25 separate cemeteries and the 5,000 graves on this 15-acre wooded site represent some 24 nationalities. The cemeteries reflect the far reach of the mines more than a century ago. Miners hailed from as far away as Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Lithuania, Germany, Slovenia, Italy and England. Many of those miners rest in these cemeteries and their descendants still live in the small town.
|The Runner Stumbles featured this church|
Jumping ahead to a bit more modern history, the Immaculate Conception Church that towers over the town was featured in a 1979 movie, The Runner Stumbles
, starring Dick Van Dyke
and Kathleen Quinlan,
that was filmed in this small town.
|Northern Exposure was filmed here|
Many of you – if you were followers of that quirky, but insanely popular television show Northern Exposure
(1991 – 1995) that was filmed here -- will recognize this building as it was used in the show’s opening. Businesses report tourists still arrive because of it. And the café is still serving up meals!
I’ve long said that once a ‘place becomes people’ it becomes even more special than its history or fame has made it. Mary and I met two such individuals in Roslyn, both deserving a mention:
|Joyce Welker of Dingo Wild Dogs of Roslyn|
|Mary and Joyce posed for the shutterbug|
Joyce Welker, is the owner/operator of a hot dog stand - Dingo Wild Dogs of Roslyn - on the town’s main drag. She was setting up for lunch as we walked past . . .the fact that we’d brought a picnic lunch didn’t deter Joyce. She was introducing a new pulled pork sandwich that day and told us that we had to sample it. We visited with her for nearly half an hour. Next time we’ll skip the picnic!
Her small kitchen/storeroom, behind the grill, is an old red rock mine scale shack (fitting for a mining town, after all). She does her biggest business after 10 p.m. when the local bars close down their kitchens, she told us. But for the non-night owls, she’s open Fridays and Saturdays from noon – 3 p.m.
We had, pardon the pun, one blooming good time – just around the corner from Joyce’s on the other, of the town’s two, main streets:
As we’d driven into town, I’d announced (as the shutterbug in the car), “We’ve got to walk back here so I can take a photo of that yard!” By the time we got back, the owner of the house and creator of this masterpiece, was out working in the garden. She gave me permission to take a photo or two. . .then she invited us up onto the porch for a closer look at those baskets:
By this point we were talking about ourselves, our husbands, her husband, their life and ours.
She offered to show us her back yard,where we continued visiting, and then - because she decorates the yard for each season – she invited us in to her basement store room (think the elves workshop at the North Pole).
By then it didn’t seem unusual at all when she invited us into her home to see a few photos of her seasonally decorated yard (framed photos, newspaper clippings and awards).
Once inside we got around to introducing ourselves by name.
When it came time to leave we each hugged this lady who only an hour before we’d not known, vowing we’d come back again when we could stay longer, have a libation and do some real visiting!
Not every visitor to these small Central Washington towns will meet our two new friends, but I know where ever you go and who ever you meet will likely greet you with that same small town warmth of welcome. We are certainly planning a return!
If You Go:
For area information: Visit the Cle Elum/Roslyn Chamber of Commerce site by clicking this link
, a large planned unincorporated community and resort complete with houses, condos, lodge and golf courses and covering an area of 6,300 acres is nearby.
Roslyn’s Swiftwater Cellars
winery is located on the Suncadia property near the historic Roslyn No. 9 Coal Mine.