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Cle Elum

At the junction of the Cle Elum and Yakima rivers, this community began to develop in earnest when coal deposits were found for supplying trains traveling through the mountains. Cle Elum began as Clealum, from the Indian Tie-el-Lum, meaning “swift water.” The town retains great examples of buildings that date back to its beginnings as a mining town and railroad stop.

Although the first settler, Thomas L. Gambel, a prospector, came in 1870, the town did not begin to develop until after the discovery of coal in 1884, when Northern Pacific Railway Company geologists surveyed the area for fuel deposits to supply locomotives on the long haul over the mountains. In 1886, the railroad tracks reached the settlement. Despite a disastrous forest fire and the removal of the town’s sawmill, the discovery of new coal veins and pockets in 1889 kept the town alive. Completion of the railroad connected Cle Elum with the Puget Sound region. Four years later, a fire left the 1,900 inhabitants homeless, but the town was quickly rebuilt. Today, in addition to historic buildings, the town has an attractive downtown with coffee shops and a couple of butcher shops featuring locally made goods.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Milwaukee Road Bunkhouse

As part of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, the two-story bunkhouse dates back to the beginning of the South Cle Elum rail yard, when it served as the original crew bunkhouse. It received an addition in the 1920s.

Cle Elum-Rosyln Beneficial Association Hospital

The first Cle Elum-Rosyln Beneficial Association Hospital was built primarily of wood on a concrete foundation in 1905. A fire destroyed the original structure in 1908 and the existing hospital was built in 1909 on the foundation of the first structure. Through forest fires, epidemics, logging accidents and mine disasters, the hospital has provided the upper Kittitas County community the stability and independence they needed in their rural mountain setting. The Beneficial Association was incorporated in 1904 to promote a health care facility for the citizens of upper Kittitas County. John L. Lewis and the miners’ union made money available for it from union dues collected from local miners. Citizens not employed by the mines were encouraged to buy health shares through the Beneficial Association in monthly installments to contribute to the facility’s costs, and the Northwest Improvement Company (NWIC) advanced construction funds to ensure the success of the hospital. Small assessments and contributions were taken from patients to reimburse the NWIC until the Cle Elum-Roslyn Beneficial Association became the full owner.

Vogue Theater

The Vogue Theater was built in 1923 by James Lane of Roslyn and designed by architect C. Ferris White of Seattle. Its predecessor, the Rose Theater, burned down in 1917, so the new structure was constructed in fire-proof brick. The Vogue is the only remaining theater in Cle Elum from the early 1920s period, when there were seven theaters that occupied what was dubbed, “Theater Row.”

Kinney Building

Built in 1910, this is an example of a typical small town commercial structure in Central Washington. Originally serving as the Royal Hotel, it is one of the few structures that survived the 1917 Cle Elum fire and therefore played a significant part in building the community. Many of the contractors and laborers who came to Cle Elum to rebuild the city stayed at the Royal Hotel.

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, South Cle Elum Yard

This represents the most intact example of a Milwaukee Road division point in the state of Washington. Located on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, the yard was active from 1909 through 1980 and played an important role in the operations of one of most technologically innovative railroads in the United States. Buildings at division points were numerous and varied in size, design and function and as new technologies emerged, building features to accommodate those technologies were added, and older structures were often adapted to new uses.