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Thread: Carbon River Valley, Washington

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    Default Carbon River Valley, Washington

    In the eastern part of Pierce County, in the approaches to Mount Rainier, lies the Carbon River. Giving its name to the glacier from which it flows, there is also a clue to the lifeblood of the multitude of small towns that have been born and died near its banks. Today, a couple linger on, but several are long gone, leaving only a few ruins and pictures.

    As you head southeast down the valley, the first community you encounter is:

    Wilkeson

    Wilkeson, with a population of just under 400, is a sleepy little town with a picturesque main street and several neat historic buildings. It was founded in the 1870's, and gets its name from one of the primary investing families, that of Frank Wilkeson, which also supported the community of Cokedale in Skagit County, which is now only a memory. At one time the town boated a population near 3,000 people, but with the decrease in demand for coal, the town lost its lifeblood, and is lucky to have hung on to life since.

    A bridge on the abandoned railroad grade through Wilkeson:


    Downtown Wilkeson:


    A boarded-up store painted to reflect the community's past:


    An impressive downtown building, note the outline of a long-gone neighbor:
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    More of the variety of historic store buildings left in downtown Wilkeson:







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    Finishing up with Wilkeson:

    The nicely maintained town hall:


    I love the angle the front of this store building (The Carlson Block, built 1910) is built at:


    Wilkeson Elementary School, built in 1909, is the oldest operating elementary school in the state:
    Last edited by Fairlane500; 02-22-2010 at 07:48 PM.
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    Love those old brick school buildings, thanks for posting.

    My sophomore and junior HS years were in a similar building, only it was concrete instead of brick. Originally built in about 1923 as I recall. Now torn down of course, but last used for some classes in 1960, or 1961. Seems strange to drive by the empty lot as I go to my Brother's house only a block past where it used to stand.

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    Great post Fairlane...just added the town to my "To-Do" list for the next nice weekend we have. Really like the old cars picture there!!!

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    And now we come to the next town down the valley:

    Carbonado

    In its early days, after being founded in 1880, this little community rivaled Tacoma in size as one of the county's primary industrial centers. After the downturn in coal prices, however, Carbonado too began to die. Today, approximately 600 people still reside in the many company homes that still lines its streets, leaving it as one of the best-preserved company towns you are likely to ever find.

    Carbonado Historical School, which still serves grades K-8. The Carbonado Historical School District has been in operation since 1881:


    A line of company homes:


    Some form of foundation kept company by an early-fifties Chevrolet:


    Another mining foundation found on the edge of town:
    Last edited by Fairlane500; 02-23-2010 at 04:36 AM.
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    After the mines in Carbonado shut down, and the mining company moved out, the homes were sold, and allowed to be left on their original plots, unlike many company towns. As a result, the streets still teem with well-maintained houses that reflect upon the community's past.





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    On the the last of the communities of the valley I "visited" on my little sojourn:

    Fairfax

    This town centered around not only coal mining, but also lumber, and during its life boasted both a sawmill and shingle mill. It began in 1892, and despite only being accessible by rail until 1921, thrived. Until 1941, that is. When the companies pulled out, the company town shut down. By 1943 its post office closed, and the town has continued to disappear ever since.

    Though I didn't visit the actual site during my trip, I took pictures of some interesting remains very close to the location.

    The road where it now passes the Fairfax site:


    Ruins along the road near Fairfax:




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    Not a ghost town, but State Route 165, between Carbonado and Fairfax, is home to another historical piece of architecture:

    The Fairfax Bridge

    When completed in 1921, the O'Farrell Bridge, built 250 feet above the Carbon River, was the tallest structure in the state, and provided long-awaited access by road to Fairfax and other communities of the valley. Today renamed, the one-lane bridge is still open to traffic, and resides on the National Historic Register.





    The view from the bridge:


    Route 165 in itself was also an accomplishment when built into the steep sides of the narrow canyon. Included is a picture of the results of the hazard's of this road's tedious location.
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    Yesterday I decided to pay a visit to the actual site of Fairfax. After closing down in 1941, the town was left abandoned, and was eventually demolished. However, a number of signs of its existence still exist to be discovered with enough bushwhacking.

    The clearing that marks the majority of the Fairfax site:


    The remains of some unfortunate truck:


    Various debris left from the town:


    A distant view of the Fairfax School's swimming pool:
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