City of Roslyn, Washington
- Roslyn on Wikipedia
- Roslyn Map
- Freeway cameras at
Roslyn exit (#80, Bullfrog Road)
- Roslyn History
Roslyn, founded in 1886, at one time contained some of the most extensive coal
fields on the west coast. Coal was discovered in upper Kittitas County in 1882.
Railroad-owned coal mining began in Roslyn in 1886 by approximately 550 laborers
hired by Northern Pacific. When the Knights of Labor went on strike in 1888, two
trainloads of black workers were brought to Roslyn to work in the mine. Mining was
a dangerous occupation; tragic disasters such as the mine explosion of May, 1892, that
killed 45 men, helped define the difficult lifestyle of the miner. This was shortly
before legislation denied railroads the right to work mines in 1898. The
Northwestern Improvement Mine, which took over the Roslyn claims,
was the largest mine in production in Roslyn. They actively
recruited miners from other countries. Life went on for Roslyn's mining families.
In 1909, ten miners died in another mine
explosion. The tragedies are marked by the
Roslyn Miner's Memorial honoring local
miners [in front of the Northwest
Improvement Company Store]. Sculptor
Mike Maiden built the statue, which was
unveiled along with the burial of a time
capsule scheduled to be opened in 2096.
Mining ended in the town in 1963 when
other sources of energy competed with
coal. The economy of Roslyn could no longer afford the mines. Four-fifths of the
original coal deposits still remain today.
Devastation did not keep the miners from living life. On a normal day folks took
advantage of the town accoutrements to get a little pleasure when they could. They
had picnics under “Castle Rock” in town, a turreted formation on Pennsylvania
Avenue. They climbed under this cave to eat their wares. Those not into picnics
liked to cavort on down to The Brick Tavern, built by Peter Giovanni in 1889. It still
has a running water spittoon under the bar. This century-plus-old establishment is
the oldest operating saloon in the state of Washington. The back bar is from
England and most of the chairs and tables are original (from Sears).
Roslyn was a thriving metropolis of over 4,000 residents in the 1920's (1998
population was 857), during the coal mines' heyday. During those days, Roslyn's
commercial district consisted of 4 square blocks. There are about a dozen of these
buildings left (including the Roslyn Theatre, which was the town morgue). At
Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street are three vintage brick buildings, including
The Brick Tavern (in continuous operation since the 1890's, complete with a working
running water spittoon trough at the base of the bar). At Second and Pennsylvania
are some buildings built with sandstone blocks, including the Roslyn Cafe, which
was recently renovated by new owners.
During its days of prosperity, the Northern Pacific constructed the Roslyn Athletic
Club for miners and their families. It was completed in 1902 and contained a gym,
meeting rooms, bowling alley and swimming pool. Roslyn's Library, which was founded in 1898,
moved into the RAC building in 1918, and holds the honor of being the oldest library
in Kittitas County.
Roslyn retains its history in architecture and in natural
features. The heavily forested boundaries provide a distinct
edge between the man-made and natural surroundings with
no urban sprawl cutting into the forest. Visible mine ruins
testify to the coal mining heritage, while the railroad tracks
have been removed and replaced by the Coal Mine Trail. A
walk on the trail affords visitors a look at the remains of
Roslyn's mines, at the railroad depot site and barn, and at
Powder House Road where dynamite was stored. Unlike
many places in America, Roslyn's history and heritage remain
obvious after more than one hundred years.
The entire city of Roslyn is listed on the National Historic Register and warrants
exploration. Take time to wander the streets to see turn-of-the-century commercial
buildings containing active businesses. These false-fronted wooden buildings are
typical of western towns from the late 1800's with their tall, narrow profiles and
unpainted wood. Roslyn's residential neighborhoods are also worth exploring as
most of the houses date from Roslyn's boom days of 1888-1914, and have a definite
The Roslyn Cemetery also is a local treasure and site of great interest. It consists of
26 separate cemeteries, many of them ethnic in origin such as the Lithuanian
Cemetery, the Serbian Cemetery, and the African-American's Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Each individual cemetery includes touches of ethnic individuality. Some Slavic
graves are marked by beautiful metal-worked Eastern Orthodox crosses, while the
Croatian cemeteries contain raised plots. The Polish graves face due North while all
others face East. Roslyn's cemetery is an excellent physical reminder of America's
melting pot heritage.
The Roslyn Cemetery holds more history and memories of the town and past
residents. Five thousand-plus graves represent 24 nationalities that once lived in this
town. This included the first black woman schoolteacher in Washington, Mrs.
Thelma DeWittig. She followed the black migration of folks who came to work in
the coal mines.
Before Northern Exposure was filmed in Roslyn, the town appeared in the movie
“The Runner Stumbles” in 1979. Dick Van Dyke played Father Rivard, a priest in a
small, economically depressed coal mining town, who is accused of a young
Ghost Towns .com, Roslyn Brewing Company and a freelance article