The Powder House

You ask … what did you say? I said Powder House like in explosives not a girly place to powder one’s nose. By now you must know I am not that kind of girl worried about a selfie.

Ok down to business on this Veazie find. And I have to say, this was one of my most satisfying moments; a solid little concrete bunker.

My first clue was a random conversation back in December 2021 on my first trip to Veazie. At that time I thought that the first schoolhouse built in 1885 could have been built in the Veazie area. It was called the Coal Creek School. Later I would understand it was the Coal Creek Community and not Coal Creek that flows just north of Veazie. That first school was off to the southwest of Veazie.

Driving down 392nd I stopped to talk to guy walking his dog. During that conversation I mentioned this original school house. He told me there was a deserted shack in the woods right before the road crossed the railroad. He did mention that it had quite a bit of nefarious activity, like any deserted building might have these days. Maybe that was the old school? I tucked that bit of info away and continued to work on gathering Veazie Information.

In my research I found two maps that are directly related to the 392nd Street SE and the Cumberland-Veazie intersection on the King County Road Maintenance Map Vault. These maps would lead me back to that old building he had mentioned.

One of the original roads that ran north from Enumclaw (#199 then and 292nd Ave SE now) joins this intersection in an odd way due to all the changes over the years. Here is a photo of the little dead end that was created by all this road change.

This is the best place to park while I walked the railroad and investigating the area.

To get us started we will use a map created in the 1930s by King County Roads to keep track of all the old and new road. They used these to merge the old names, road numbers and the current numbering system. I have marked up this map by adding the build dates and first formal names of these roads to Veazie. Here is a good example of road names. First built in 1888 as the Arthur Sundt Road, then called Road 199 and today called 292nd Avenue SE. See why King County had these Establishment Maps.

This little dead-end of #199 is right next to Veazie circled in red.

Hope this gets you orientated to where we are in the world. We are now going to a June 29, 1908 survey of this intersection area. It was a proposal for what is now 392nd Street SE but then was going to be called the George Balsley Road. It has an Under Head Crossing or what I would call a railroad underpass. Check this out:

Survey of intersection of road #199, NPRR and road #356 from Krain.
Diagram of underpass for George Balsley Road

Many maps in the future show this perfect straight configuration of where 392nd (G. Balsley Rd) meet the north south road. That made me struggled with if this undercrossing was ever built. One thing we know for sure is that today there is no underpass.

To help you visualize here is a current Google view of the intersection.

Current Intersection – Underpass no where to be found

One of my trips to Veazie I walked the railroad where this under cut (pass) was noted on the 1908 survey. I also approached it from the east side and could not find any signs that it ever existed.

It is possible they completely regraded this piece of the track. If it had existed, one would think there would be pieces of old road leading up to the underpass. So, in my search I looked for signs of those too. No clues or remains found. Hmmmm!

I pushed on by pulling more old road maps and related documents. I found one from 1920 that was a more detailed revisit of this Undercrossing. Seems that the county was still working a decade later to make this road happen. This is one of the most detailed old maps of the Veazie intersection I would find.

Detail map of proposed new road with NPRR undercrossing at Veazie in 1920.

Digging deeper into the Road Map Vault I found 1920-22 correspondence with the NPRR around this proposed project. Below we have the 1922 response from the NPRR on what they would agreed to do.

Unsigned NPRR Contract with King County to build Veazie Undercrossing Road

Deep in this contract it states that the county can build this undercrossing and road if they bear all the costs of relocating the Powder House so it would remain legal under the laws of storing explosives.

Powder House! To find that go back to the 1920 map. Almost dead center of the map is a little symbol that is a square with a half moon. That is the Powder House.

Eureka!! That is around where I heard there was an old shack used for parties and drug deals. Can you hear my brain exploding on the fact there was a surviving relic in the woods to be found?

Before we go exploring for the little powder house, I designed an overlay map of the 1920 map on top of a fairly current aerial. In red I have circled the Powder house. These maps do not perfectly match and that is why two circles. But close enough to go searching!

Overlay of 1920 proposed undercrossing at Veazie to 2012 current Imap view

With all this data in mind I proceeded to this approximate spot. My focus was the Veazie Gravel Quarry and some old overgrown roads there. This map shows that they were originally railroad spurs that came off the NPRR. My photos below show the search better than more words.

Photo taken of 392nd curve on the east side of NPRR

Going around the corner here is what it looked like.

On 392nd here is the first overgrown road/railroad – no Powder house here

Continuing around the corner I went. Down the road was this road that had some 4 wheel traffic on it.

This is the magic place – be prepared to step back in time.

An just a bit into the woods down that old dirt track I saw it.

Powder House!!! Found!!!

This little cement building was built so nothing would set off the explosives. Concrete walls to stifle any blast plus on the east side was a man-made hill to reduce the blast zone. Then to the west was the old 1880s gravel pit with plenty of unoccupied open space. Bare bones to say the least but it protected people from an accidental explosion.

My research of Fell Hill Quarry (not to be confused with this Veazie gravel quarry) says that it had been used as a rock quarry for 50 years. That publication was in 1971 which would date the use of the Fell Hill quarry to about 1920. At first, I thought the powder house was built for Fell Hill. However, since they had been talking about the road and underpass starting in 1908 that means the explosive storage had been in existence before Fell Hill’s mining. Bet they used it for Fell hill later but it was built for the original Veazie gravel quarry.

My source who said it was a party house was 100% correct. This series of photos shows you what she looks like after a bunch of nefarious activity and many years of desertion. Built to withstand an explosion she has survived over 100 years.

Now that you have seen the powder house how about what the gravel pit looks like down here. Plus a bonus mystery item I found in the bushes.

Next the little special thing I found lurking in the bushes. I have to confess this spot by the Powder House is a perfectly private place for a girl to take a pee. There I was behind a holly bush doing my business and I noticed something under it.

It is very heavy and seems to be made of stone, possibly granite. Could it be a drawer or something that held a tool? Never know what one will find in the woods. Yup, odd items that someone wanted to dispose of. Hoping it would never be seen again.

The holly tree has a mystery item under it

There you have the little Powder House that single handedly stopped King County from building a road project and an underpass under the Northern Pacific Railroad. Never know what one will find. Stay alert and serendipity just might reveal a bit of history.

This is the fifth chapter on my Veazie findings. (links to the prior four are – The Elusive Veazie, a bit of railroad fun in Which was first? Veazie or the Railroad?, all over the map with Many Faces of Veazie and the one on finding our logging camp Lost? or Disappeared? Unravelling the Veazie Mystery

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

Leave you with a view of the Holly Bush and the quarry now bog

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