Once the center of Washington’s coal-mining industry, Roslyn has found new life as the hub for local tourism and recreational activities. (Photo by Mark Wibe.)
By Marc Stephens
After many visits to Roslyn, I still find this town to be one of my favorites. This is because it has so much to offer – historic buildings, great stores and shops, a unique cemetery, and an atmosphere that makes one wonder how such an interesting town came to be.
The first impression visitors have of Roslyn is that it seems precarious, its numerous small homes clinging uneasily to the steep slopes on either side of the highway that runs into town. Despite the age of the buildings, it doesn’t seem as if Roslyn has been around for very long. It feels raw and unfinished, as if the town had been placed in an environment that wasn’t designed for human settlement. Given Roslyn’s origins as a coal-mining town, this is to be expected, since the original settlers had to live where the mines were, and the mines were located in what seems like a cramped and narrow valley. The homes one sees when entering the town thus sit on crowded hillsides, and they often feel as though they are uncomfortably close to the highway.
Most visitors head straight to downtown, where many of the structures that appeared in the 1990s TV series “Northern Exposure” are located. One such building is the Brick Tavern, which is easy to spot on the corner of the highway and Pennsylvania Avenue and which makes an excellent place to stop for a beer, lunch, or dinner. This street also features gift stores, a museum, the Post Office, a Masonic hall, a small hotel, and specialty stores such as a glass shop where visitors can buy artistic glassware or make their own glass jewelry. During the summer Pennsylvania Avenue is also the site of the local Farmer’s Market, making it an especially crowded and lively area on Sundays. Just off the highway leading into town visitors can also stop at Carek’s Meat Market, which has been selling a variety of fresh and cured meats since it was established by one of Roslyn’s Croatian immigrant families in 1913.
If one takes a short walk up Pennsylvania Avenue, one finds the entrance to the Roslyn Cemetery, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery is a fascinating reflection of the social diversity of old Roslyn, as it is made up of 26 different cemeteries that are segregated according to ethnicity and social background. Each of the town’s ethnic groups (Serbian, Croatian, German, Pole, Italian, Lithuanian, etc.) was represented by its own cemetery, and the same was true for Roslyn’s fraternal organizations. Strolling through the various cemeteries gives visitors a fascinating glimpse of the virtual melting pot of races and ethnic groups that comprised Roslyn when it was a coal-mining community.
The town is also a good jump-off point for people interested in the area’s recreational opportunities. Suncadia Resort, with its golf courses and horse-riding trails, is only a few miles away, while in Roslyn itself the former railroad route is now a hiking trail that leads past old mines and slag hills that lie in thick forest. Also nearby is the Cle Elum River (a prime fishing spot), and the town hosts several festivals and special events during the year, such as the Pioneer Days Picnic, the Coal Mining Festival, and the Manly Man Festival.
Roslyn has much to offer both the occasional and regular visitor. Visually intriguing and rich in local history, Roslyn is one of the gems of central Washington and the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains.
Marc Stephens is a Toot’n Towns USA correspondent.
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Mark Wibe, Publisher
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