Roslyn Washington – More Than A Moosefest?

Photo By Blake Handley CC

Rosyln Washington

Sometimes you just happen across a little town or city or bend in the road that strikes you as special. The attractions may not be Vegas style and the events may be closer to an ice cream social than a red carpet extravaganza but it just feels good. Roslyn, Washington is a place like that.

Roslyn is unassuming and yet it has had both a film and an entire television series filmed in its midst. It is small but its population skyrockets a few times a year during their unique festivals and local activities. The character, ambiance and environment draw visitors from all over the world each year.

Roslyn, a city in Kittitas County, Washington, United States, has a population of less than 1000. In the late 1800’s coal was discovered and soon after it became a thriving coal mining city. Its abundance of coal allowed it to become instrumental in the railroad industry.The varied and unique cultures and traditions of the area stem from these coal mining/railroad days. The never ending, backbreaking work of the coal mines drew immigrants by the boatloads in search of work and a better life in America.

Rosyln Washington


Immigrant workers came from Italy, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, bringing their cultures and traditions with them. Most of the area’s residents are descendents of these immigrant workers.

The deadliest mining accident in Washington history happened in tiny Roslyn. Mine No. 4 exploded in 1892 and killed 45 miners. The mine shaft exploded and everything within 200 yards was destroyed by the burning wooden frame structures that were shot out of the devastation. The ground shook like an earthquake as the explosions tore through the mine shafts. Tours and tales of this tragedy abound today throughout Roslyn.

The coal production began to slow in 1910 after nearly 2 million tons were excavated. By the early twenties, diesel replaced coal and the mines shut down. The city never lost its “company town” atmosphere, however.  After so many years as a coal mining town, dependent on the company store and the Northern Pacific Coal Company, Roslyn kept its company store in business for many years and used it as a community gathering spot. The company store still stands and is in use today as a historical landmark.

The distinct uniqueness of the town has drawn film and television producers into its midst. The Runner Stumbles, starring Dick Van Dyke and Kathleen Quinlan, was filmed in Roslyn and released in 1979. The local residents appeared as extras and in bit parts. The Immaculate Conception Church of Roslyn played an integral part of the film and still draws visitors to the city.

Roslyn Cafe Washington
Photo By Curtis Cronn (cc) on Flickr

From 1990 through 1995, the hugely successful American television show, Northern Exposure was also filmed in Roslyn. The show starred Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Darren E. Burrows, John Corbett, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles, Barry Corbin and John Cullum.

The show centered on the town and the fictional people who lived there but it used many locals as extras and some even had recurring characters. The town’s main street, radio station, bar and many other locations were frequently part of the storylines.

Each year a Moosefest is held in Roslyn to celebrate Northern Exposure. Visitors come from all over the world to participate in this fan festival. Celebrities from the show come to town and participate in panel discussions, games, contest and autographing.

The festivals activities include a costume contest where participants dress in costume from their favorite moment in the five year long series. Tours of the shooting sites, questions and answer with guest stars and meals are all part of this fan festival each year.

The tavern in Roslyn, “The Brick” , was used in the show and is said to be the oldest tavern in the state. The exterior was used for the show while the inside shots were filmed on a set in Washington. Other building like the general store and the doctor’s office where used in their entirety in the show, are still in use today and are part of the tour each year during Moosefest.

Roslyn has several historic cemeteries that are also big tourist attractions. They are all on the National register of Historic Places. The cemetery is unique as it has 26 separate but adjacent plots. They were purchased by the various civic organizations formed from the many immigrant workers. There are 24 nationalities represented among the 5,000 graves.

The Roslyn Museum and the Historic Coal Mines offer a taste of Roslyn from its early beginnings. Artifacts, remains, exhibits and relics of all sorts are on display to educate visitors on the town’s humble beginnings in the coal mines. Tours are given of the mining sites but no inside tours are permissible for safety reasons.

Hike the Coal Miners trail for a hands-on experience of the original railroad line that put Roslyn on the map. Visit the Coal Miners Memorial to pay tribute to the many hard working coal miners that toiled in the dangerous mines.

A vacation to Roslyn is a trip full of fun and eccentricity. This tiny town is full of history and character and personality. Barry Corbin, star of Northern Exposure, once said that Roslyn has so much personality it became a tangible character in the show.

Come and meet Roslyn. You’ll fall in love forever.

Written by Kelly Banaski Sons