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Initially developed in 1886 by the Northern Pacific Coal Company as a mining camp and company town to exploit the area’s rich coal deposits, Roslyn grew rapidly into an ethnically diverse community representing more than 20 nationalities. It was named for Alexander Ronald, a Scot, who was superintendent of mines. The company store, built in 1889, supplied most of the food, clothing, furniture and hardware needs of the coal miners and their families as well as the explosives used in the mining operations. After the Northern Pacific began mining here in 1886, with approximately 500 laborers, life in the little settlement was disturbed periodically by industrial strife and tragic disasters. Forty-five men were killed in a mine explosion in May 1892; in a second explosion in October 1909, ten miners were killed. As modern mining methods took over, the danger of explosion subsided. Descendants of African Americans, who were brought in in 1888 to break a strike led by the Knights of Labor, would join with the miners in celebrating Seven Hour Day on the first of April each year; and Roslyn observed Emancipation Day on August 4. Machine methods, introduced in the mines in 1929, cut down the time required for digging out the coal “workrooms,” and explosions were prevented by spraying mine walls with lime, which kept combustible dust from collecting.

Many quaint Old-World traditions survived among the citizens, who were mostly of European descent—Slav, Italian, and Austrian. A courtship custom observed among the Croats and Slavs decreed that, when a man wished to propose, he must take a crowd of men friends to the girl’s house and there, on bended knees, make his proposal. If he was rejected, he would buy a keg of beer in which the common grief may be drowned; if he was accepted, his friends paid the wedding fees. These traditions today intermingle with Roslyn’s new tradition as a destination spot, thanks to burgeoning residential development catering to the vacation-recreation set, as well as Roslyn’s historic core. The town even had a brush with small-screen fame in the 1980s, when Northern Exposure, a popular TV series set in Alaska, was filmed there.

Roslyn’s historic core has been a National Register Historic District since 1978, with a few notable remainders of the town’s mining history worth a visit.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

The Northwestern Improvement Company Mine

The Northwestern Improvement Company Mine, at the east end of Pennsylvania Avenue, was the largest mine in operation. While the mines are no longer in operation and thus not open to the public, the NWI company store still stands at the corner of First St. and Pennsylvania Avenue, marking the heart of downtown Roslyn. First opened in 1889, the company store provided life’s essentials to local mine workers. The Roslyn Museum provides a peek into the heyday of the mines more than 100 years ago and tells the story of a 25-ton piece of coal cut from a Roslyn mine and displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Castle Rock

Castle Rock, on Pennsylvania Ave., three blocks East of the city limits, is a picturesquely turreted formation. A cave under the rock was used for picnics.