Not Just An Old Shack

This little shack is an enigma. There are lots of clues abound of it’s history. I am pretty sure this small outbuilding and the brick piles are some of the last standing structures from the Coal Creek Coal Mine Processing Area. Pretty damn exciting.

Most of what is left has been nicely documented on the trail by the Bellevue Parks. This includes the Steam Plant cement remnants, the Bunkers foundations on the hillside and some wood planking in the creek that were part of the flume that controlled the creek.

No other wood structures even at the Ford Slope Mine exist but somehow this little shack still stands. Come along with me on an investigation that I could not do without my partners in crime from the Ghost Town Lovers Facebook Group.

I had visited the old shack/shed back in 2017 that I accessed via a Gate at the Coal Creek/Newcastle historic area. Here is a link to that if you want to see 2017 status of our Old Shack -> Thru the Gate to History

Then I went back just recently when Alan B told me he was going on a Saturday. While he metal detected the area, I investigated the Shack & Bricks again. Plus went down to the creek behind the long gone Hotel. That creek has debris from the Hotel’s dump that I documented in a prior article -> Coal Creek Hotel Trash.

What I wanted to check out was the information on the foundation of this humble shed. We had heard that it was built on top of recycled pieces of the Company Store’s foundation. My old photos did not really capture the bottom of the shed. Plus explore the mysterious piles of red brick that since I have gathered exciting information around.

We are going to tackle this in several steps; The shack and it’s foundation, the shed’s messy interior, the brick piles and last an ornate metal find. Before we go into those subjects let’s get orientated to the area. On this map below please zero in on #2 & #3. The Boiler House aka the Steam Plant and the Electrical Plant aka Electric Generator House old locations are right next to where the Shack sits today. Basically just to the right side of #3.

Coal Creek 1910 Map

Next we will zero in on that area. The trail signs have the perfect picture that shows the Steam Plant and the Generator House. Plus you can see the Bunkers in the distance that are Southwest of our site.

Coal Creek looked like this a century or more ago.

Now fast forward about 100 years. This next view is from 2015 courtesy of King County IMap website. This has a circle around the shack and the brick piles. It also has a square where the old Coal Creek Hotel stood and an arrow to the creek where I found dumped 1920s broken dishes and glass bottles. (see Coal Creek Hotel Trash Link above)

Coal Creek Hotel, Dump & Shack with brick piles

When I saw the shack and bricks I noticed the property lines around them. It forms a triangle shape. With a little click I found out to my relief that Milt Swanson (who lived forever in the house you see across from the creek dump) had given this piece of his property to King County in 1986. In turn King County gave it to Bellevue Parks in 2005. It is protected from the development that is trying to build a bunch of new houses along Lakemont Blvd SE. There is a campaign to stop this and make the area a park. Let us hope they win the good fight.

Are you ready for some good photos of the Old Shed?

A good view of the front door on the NW side and the NE side – check out the potential old window opening.
The back door SE side entangled in briar and the more exposed SW side – doubt there was a window on this side

The stage is set. Let us walk around and take a look at the Not Just an Old Shack. How about a slide show showing you a bunch of different angles and views?

Now that you have seen some up close and personal photos of our old building, it is time to draw the strings of history together.

  • The rumor/information we got was the foundation belonged to the old Company Store that was next to the Hotel. When one looks at the King County IMap 1936 aerial the store building is still standing.
  • Alan B and I both believe this shack was part of the greater industrial complex around the sawmill, steam plant, generator house and bunkers. Below is a photo that has a very similar shack. Then it had a window which as you saw in my slide show of our Not Just an Old Shack, it had a window one time.
  • Knowing all this, I believe the foundation is not from the store but some other pieces salvaged around the mine complex. In that period of time, buildings were put on block and pillar. See how the cement pieces have slots for the beams? Kind of Lego pieces they used in construction.
  • My best guess is this shed was moved up here when the majority of coal processing plants were torn down. Then they used the parts and pieces to support it. Still possible it was the store but that means the total change to the ravine was in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Either are possible and I ask anyone with more information to send me a comment.
Coal Creek Industrial Complex 1894 – see shack on right side above the covered shed with coal car? Is that our shack?

Moving along let us look at the interior. The inside is rather messy and full of building supplies and junk. Some are old and others are really old. What I think is more important is the construction clues plus two items of note. First off in the far corner is what I think was an original door. On that same wall (NE) is where a window could have been plus check out the bracket there.

2017 photo of interior. Things have been moved around since then but still a mess of odd items.

Next is a slide show of my current 2021 photos and what they have to show. Be sure to look for the door, boarded up window and bracket.

Time to move onto the brick piles. They are not just piled up old brick. They are foundation footings to a building. I have excavated the two that were buried in the blackberries and took this video of the shack & brick foundations. Then I will share my still photos and go into what these bricks supported… the Generator House.

Not Just an Old Shack and Red Brick Piles

I think we should start the brick discussion with a view of how close to the Steam Plant all this sits. Here is a photo of some more metal parts and a peek at the sign explaining how one is standing where the Steam Plant was.

This metal piece is only about 20 steps from the shed and brick. The Steam Plant was where that sign sits.

Then we are going to look at the old photo from that sign showing the Steam Plant and the Generator House. These brick piles are the foundation to that Electric Generation Building.

The sign sits where the You are Here and the Electric Generator building is right next to our Not Just an Old Shack.

Looking across Coal Creek towards the sign and looking up at the shack and brick piles. All very close to each other.

Looking up from the Steam Plant up to our Not Just a Shack peeking between the trees.

One more clue was the 2011 photos posted on Ghost Towns of Washington. In the snow and not covered in briar are the red brick foundations.

Shack and brick in 2011 – Ghost Towns of Washington Coal Creek – caption said Generator House Foundations

Note: Check out the back of the Shack. It looks to me like it was a window not a door. But then maybe it was a door first & then made into a window. We will never really know will we?

Back to our brick piles – These 4 piles of brick are not just stored old bricks as I thought at first brush. They are purposefully mortared together and create a very sold foundation for the Generator House equipment. Until I saw the photos Alan sent me from the Washington Ghost Town web site I only knew of two piles. That spurred me to return and find the other two. They were buried under blackberries which I proceeded to whack back. Then pulled moss off to expose the side and reveal their craftmanship. The two front piles are more degraded and perhaps picked from. Here are my still shots for review:

I know this has been a lot but one more thing to show you. On my first trip in January to the site I bushwhacked into the blackberries to get to the back of the shed. It is muddy back there but I was able to get some photos of the foundation and the old doorway/window.

Stuck in the mud was an old empty wood box and a pile of stuff. I assume at some time in the far far past these items were pitched out.

Path I cut out of the bushes to get to the back of the Shack
Tangled muddy mess in back of shed

My eye spotted ornate looking metal. Hot Dog!! What is that I thought. I pulled it out low and behold it seems to be a pair of brackets with another piece. Check out the photos and let me know what you think these are. FYI – as a good citizen I left them on site but hidden from poaching.

What is this? A historic find!!
Isn’t this beautiful. What did it support or do?

What a ride this has been. It all started from a post of some photos that Milt had taken of the shack and Alan posted on Facebook Ghost Town Lovers Group.

That sparked in me the need to see it again. Then to research in partnership with others the history I was able to document these priceless pieces of Coal Creek Mining. Hope you enjoyed this and would love to hear from anyone with more information.

Documenting our past is an ongoing process and new hidden facts will pop out when least expected. One has to not be married to ones assumptions but rather be open to modifying them as time goes on.

If you want to read more about my search for Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear!

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County


  1. Amazing history – Thanks! One day I want to find the remnants of the Jovita Interurban tunnel and the roadbed of the Lake Burien & Highland Park Railroad.

    • That is a noble project. I need to look up the guy who asked me questions about the Burien trolly above West Marginal. Then just yesterday a lady was publishing photos of the old homesteads along West Marginal. I knew one of them so was able to find them both on the 1936 aerial view on the KC Imap site. Made me think maybe that could help with finding that trolly line too. Then boom there you are.

      • Many thanks! I read a blog last year from a guy who found a few rusted spikes with a metal detector after he located a cut made for the roadbed of the Highland Park & Lake Burien Railaway on a West Seattle hillside.

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