Time to load up the car and head to Renton and 163rd Place Southeast. My mission is to see where the bubble is on this long-dead end street and try to match the buildings in the 1979 photo to today’s houses.
If you have not read my prior article on Red Devil Coal Mine here is a link to get you up to speed on this adventure – Red Devil Mine – Where are you?
The photo at the top is “The Bubble”. When I got to the spot there was a gentleman working on his car across the street. As is common when I tell folks I am seeking a coal mine in their neighborhood, he knew nothing about it.
To help you get orientated here is a map of the area. Can you see dog leg on the long straight street on the left – 163rd Place Southeast? That is our target.
Next is a photo showing the pipe in “the bubble” a little better. It has a 10 on it done with an old fashion stencil.
To make things a bit more confusing I found that a natural gas line runs right through here. When we go look at the open pit mine side of the area I have some more photos of the signage and how that pipeline sits.
At one point I thought maybe it was labeled as a pipeline to keep folks from digging around. A clever ruse right? To sort this out I found a map of Natural Gas pipelines and sure enough there is one flowing right thru this spot. Guess they took advantage of things being disturbed by the coal mining.
Let us get down to matching the houses to the old photo from the 1979 Seattle Times article. This was when they were building the housing development and they stumbled upon a coal mine hole. Here is that photo as a reference to how the land looked back then.
I thought I had it sorted out before I got there. Right next to the bubble is a yellow house which I was sure was the one. Take a peek at that house from the street bubble side.
I got excited since the house just to the north of it had a chimney like the more distant house has. There is a problem with this and it is kind of important. If the hole was where the bubble was then the two houses are backwards.
- First when you look at the 1979 photo the distant house is not in front of the close house but rather behind.
- Second problem is the chimney house in my current photo was not built until 1980.
- Oh and the close house in the old photo also appears to have it’s front facing the opposite direction.
I have to confess this has been driving me a bit crazy trying different options. I at one point before I went to the site, thought that a house across the street to the north was the distant house. But again that close house is facing the wrong way and it is just too far apart to make it work. Here is that house so you can see it has a chimney too. Oh one more thing this house is over the rise and the 1979 photo we seem to be looking up a rise not down.
That made me do some more calculations on where the hole was in my effort to clear up the house to photo research. I came up with several other options.
- First is where the Washington State Mine Map has a dot for the Red Devil Mine. I kind of blew that off cause it has the mine shaft to the left of this house above. That did not make sense to me that they would build a house right over this or so close to the big hole.
- Second site potential site is across from “the bubble” where the house on that lot is pushed way back from the road. So unlike the rest of houses built here. That set back house was built in 1980 which also supports this a bit. They held off building till they had the mine stuff stabilized.
Lastly, the coal mine map itself shows there were actually three shafts. The Fan shaft, the actual entrance via a short rail and potentially another vent shaft (the map is difficult to tell if that is a surface opening or just a mine shaft dead-end). They are all in a row on the West/East axis. I estimate that last vent shaft is on the property line and the rest of the locations follow along from there headed west.
My next assumption is:
- the vent shaft is to the south of the yellow house (16728) on the property line,
- the mine entrance is the bubble
- the fan shaft is in the front of the lot with the set back house (16803).
Here is the map of the property lines for reference and marked with my placement of the mine shafts.
Hope you are still with me on all this. I understand if it is a lot to take in. My head spun so much I had to stop several times and then resume later. YIKES!!
Now let us go back to the two houses in the 1979 photo using those mine opening locations. The next step was going thru the property details and noting on a map the dates they were all built. That eliminated a lot of houses since about half of them near the bubble were from 1980.
If the fan shaft is in the front yard of the set back house, one option is the house right next to that area. That is about where the SUV is in the photo. Could the house in the next photo be the close house in the old photo? That would make the green house the distant one. (16719 address). Can’t be 100% sure since the foliage is so grown up to get an in-line photo of the two houses. However, it is an option.
This has several problems.
- it has a chimney on the south side which is not in the photo,
- that downhill vs uphill problem
- these two houses are almost in line vs the distant one being set back.
My one other option is another yellow house that is just south of the bubble and a distant house one lot over. Here is the second yellow house.
And this is the distant house which is one lot over. The middle lot is eliminated since it was built in 1980.
This also has issues as you can imagine. The second yellow house and this one 16822 are in a line. Hence the set back of the distant house would make the hole the actual vent shaft on the property border at the back of the lot line of these two. That might work but it is just not 100%.
There you go… I drove myself a bit crazy with the houses but did figure out that the mine shafts are here where 163rd Place SE has a dog leg and “The bubble”. Mission accomplished on this task of finding the Red Devil Coal Mine.
The house identification mission is still a bit fussy. Remember how things have changed from 1979 to 2020. That is 40 plus years of time spanning the development of a back wood mining operation to miles of houses. One last simple explanation could be the developer ended up raising the closest house due to the risk.
Speaking of time, think about how much things have changed around the Red Devil Coal Mine since 1946. In 74 years our whole Puget Sound area has gone from a backwater town way up in the corner of the USA to a mega city that is attracting more residents as I type this.
My next quest is to drive to the other side of this area to where the strip mine is located and what I call the coal mine operation yard. That is the development called Woodside. Can’t get there easily since the connector street is blocked. Stay tuned!!
Want to see more of my coal mine research and finds? Here are the links to those previous adventures: