You read that right. Time has almost erased any remnant of the Renton Coal Mine that was a major force in Renton about 100 years ago.
When I heard that there is actually a ruin still in existence, I got really excited. Then I had to find it and go see it. Seeing this piece of history is not as simple as it used to be. Here is my adventure and a flash to the past all in one place.
What is this relic I am seeking? It is the foundation of the hoist that pulled the coal carts out of the mine. The buildings and the mine are in the dust of time but this hunk of concrete still exists. To give you some perspective, here is the Renton Coal Mine in all its industrial glory.
My adventure started at the City of Renton Townhall. It was a quiet Sunday and I parked near the front door. No need to worry about my car being stolen or broken into because there was several policeman hanging out since it is their shop too.
One cannot just drive and park next to the last piece of the mine. No wonder most folks have no idea what it is. From the parking lot I trekked up Benson Road South, passed under the off ramp from I-405 and came upon it.
Then I was there. It sits between the Benson, the off ramp and the Freeway is close by.
At this point I took a video which will give you a better view of how it sits, help you imagine what it must have been and see what it is now.
The next series of photos document all the sides and angles of this historical ruin. I basically walked down from the southern side and snapped away with my camera.
The two memorials on the north side can only really be seen if you walk up to the memorial or go really slow on the Benson. I don’t think you can see them from the off ramp.
Check out the big bolts it took to secure the machinery to this hunk of concrete!
Next you need to get your imagination going and think about what it must have been before.
The article this photo was published in back in the 60’s stated that the entrance was full of coal cars, fencing, and general junk. If you look close you can see how it was draining water out.
I wasn’t done yet. I walked back to my car and drove over the freeway to Historic Renton Hill which was due east of the mine entrance. It has a good over view of the whole area.
This is a community of some of the oldest homes and some of the newest too. Imagine knowing your home is built over an old mine. Need I say more about what can happen if the ground collapses below you?
From a view-point above the hoist you can see exactly how this all worked. The next three photos will give you a perspective on just how that mine entrance is truly under the freeway. Plus go back to the old photo of the Coal Mine Plant and see the now and then of the whole thing.
What can I say but time changes all. Not just our technology, but what we value, how we made our machinery operate and how in a blink of this world’s eye it can all be gone.
This week I got a wonderful surprise when Mr. Racks sent a notice that they were testing a new camera on Freeway Osprey’s nest. It was just a sneak preview of what their new equipment will do but the best part was seeing a baby osprey.
That is right!! Our Freeway Osprey (or as Mr. Racks call them “Seahawks”) have a baby. Last year it was three but this time only one has made it. After reviewing the 12 minute test video on the link below I am pretty sure they only have one and no more will hatch. This baby is fairly large and the parent is sitting on the side of the nest versus sitting on another egg or two.
So, what did I do? I went by the nest on Thursday morning to see how the nest looked from below. This new video is obviously not from the old post on the side of the nest. The test showed the freeway below and zoomed out from the whole structure. The clincher is you can see the old camera on its post in the photo above. This was not some old stationary camera.
At first it was not obvious where it was. Then after using my camera as binoculars, I found it on the cell tower. What a great partnership Mr Racks has made with the owner of that tower. Steve at Mr. Racks told me that they still have to stabilize their power source so as of today we only have the sneak peek into the Freeway Osprey’s nest. Just enough to tease us and make us yearn for more.
For those that have just found the Freeway Osprey or if you want a refresher on prior posts here are a few links to check out:
Longacres Racetrack may be gone now but she lives on in people’s hearts. So many have reached out to me from the documentation I have recently done on The Ruins of Longacres. One of the most gracious has been Bill Taylor.
Bill right away sent me a photo of the Entrance Units under I-405 when I posted my first article called Relics of Longacres. Link to article In the last month he sent me this series of aerial photos. Most of them are from the early 60s when the freeway was under construction and Southcenter Mall was just a dream.
Let us jump right into things!
This first picture that was the opener is of the racetrack in 1959 when the Green River flooded.
These next two pictures are from the 1960s. The arial is the Mile Day (Longacres Mile Race) showing a packed parking lot and grandstands. The second is the running of the Rainiers which should put a smile on your face.
Bill sent me this wonderful piece of Longacres art that only one print was every made of. Notice the lombardy poplar trees that are a signature of the track. Mt Rainier is peeking in behind the trees.
Next are a series of photos of I-405 being constructed. This has to be before 1965. That was when the first piece of it was opened between Tukwila and Renton.
I have done some more research around the entrance units that are now under the I-405 with these photos. They are not visible on any of them best I can tell zooming them in and out. There is an additional railroad spur about where they are. This old spur has been gone so long that when I went back to the site I cannot find any signs that it ever existed. Look closely yourself and see what I means.
Continuing on the entrance units concept here is another picture Bill sent me earlier. It must be in the 80s since the additional grandstands are built. Note the red box highlights where you can see the two entrance units under the freeway. Somewhere between the freeway construction and then they were moved there.
In my research I found a letter from the City of Renton to the Washington Dept. of Transportation. One of the items was asking them to save the units. The WADOT stated they did not qualify since they were put there since the freeway was built. Not what I thought at first but it seems to fit the pictures above.
The WA DOT has it wrong though about them being moved there when the racetrack was destroyed or sold to Boeing.
Does anyone reading this have knowledge of these two units? Where did they come from and when did they get installed under the freeway? All good things to know if and when the State decides to move or destroy them.
Back to Bill’s historic pictures. Here are three more showing what the area looked like about 50 years ago. I have added a google map view for your comparison at the end.
I have included Southcenter in this Google Map snip so you can compare that to the next photo too.
One feature of Longacres that Tina (remember how she helped me find ruins one day?) told me about was the house behind the scoreboard. It had a pool even. Bill rounded out the photos he sent me with one of the house.
I have to thank Bill again for his generosity in sharing his photos and knowledge.
If you want to know more about Longacres today here is a link to the first article.
In the last couple of weeks the Freeway Osprey have returned.
I delight each day to and from work to see what they are up to. Friday on my bad traffic back-way took me to their nesting platform’s dead-end street. My first picture was just the nest and cell tower. I had got too close.
Check out the power pole in this photo. That was the original site of the nest before PSE moved them to the safer platform.
After moving back and zooming in, I got the bird in my sights. To my delight another bird was sitting with the Osprey. This crow lover assumed it was a crow. Boy was I wrong.
Once reviewed on a bigger screen it was obvious this was not big enough to be a crow. Plus the tail and body was all wrong. My guess was a Robin or Starling. After reviewing the All about Birds site by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (All about Birds – European Starling) I am leaning towards the Starling. See how the beak is pointy and the tail is shorter than a robin’s. Plus even in this light the bird looks a consistent color and lacks the robin red breast.
This is one brave starling when compared to the large Osprey with a 50–71 in wing span to his 12.2–15.7 in wing span. He is being cheeky giving the bigger bird a raspberry. (see his tongue)
Seriously, the little bird was just staying cool. The Audubon Society site has this tid-bit to share:
When it’s hot, some species will also resort to gular fluttering. The bird will open its mouth and “flutter” its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).
Stay tuned for more on the Freeway Osprey next to the busy I-405 in Renton, Washington. Not only will I share them with you but also the Mr. Racks Livestream link which should be running soon. If you are interested here is the one from last year with some saved video for your viewing pleasure.
Ruins are often thought of as a tourist site such as the Ruins of Pompeii, the Acropolis or Delphi of Oracle. These are in distant places many of us can never see. They do have one thing in common and that is they were places mankind gathered. The area is imprinted with that activity with not only the remains of the structures but of the vibrations that do not dissipate over time. In some cases they become more powerful and draw us to them.
Longacres has been a ruin for only about 20 years. A horse racetrack of fame built in the 1930s and leveled due to economic hardship in the early 1990s. This place carries many good and sad times. It has heard the cheers of victory, the cries of defeat and the thundering of hooves. The humans and animals cross over many generations, fashion, and even war and peace. If you would like to read more about the history of the racetrack here is a link to HistoryLink.org –History of Longacres
When I started documenting the two entrance units that are visibly standing there was a huge interest in the site. These two units are the only real standing things that are visible to those that casually pass through. With that in mind I returned with my camera and a few reference photos to see what I could find. Not much unlike an archaeologist seeking a long-lost place or time to investigate.
What I found surprised me and it will you too. So, come along on my quest to find the lost Longacres Racetrack. There is so much to see that I have broken it down into three parts:
The Green Wall
To give you an overview of the site, I took a video from the raised platform on the Light Rail Station. It faces east and starts with the south end panning to the north. You will see several areas that will be covered starting with the two old poplars next to the Jockey House and the rock pile which is where I found a tile where the Club House is. It then moves over the original grandstand area. Notice the black fencing which is a Boeing built path from its campus to the Light Rail Station. Then in the distance you will see jersey barriers of the North Grandstands. In the distance to the north is the parking lot and freeway. Under the freeway are the entrance units where I started my investigation from. (here is a link to that post – Longacres Relics)
To start the foundations adventure we will go to the parking lot. When you drive down into this area behind the Boeing Campus you will see what is called overflow parking and some construction around the light rail station. Do not be fooled. This is the original Longacres Parking Lot.
To give you some bearing on where this is I took a short 360 degree video. Note the two entrance units under the interstate freeway (I-405) as a way to get your bearings.
Walking south towards the fence that separates this parking lot from the light rail station you will come upon concrete slabs hiding in the underbrush and small trees. This area is protected from the thoroughfare by jersey barriers but one can easily walk around and on top of the area. To the naked eye it looks like just another piece of the parking lot but you will notice it is raised in several places.
As I walked to my surprise I found the first of several patches of red tile. Yes there was something special in these places that the tile is still attached to the concrete slab. Now you can imagine the footsteps that trod over these tiles and see in your mind how it was a place of excitement instead of this desolate neglected site.
Traveling south I come across an area that is white modern concrete. It is the North Grandstand built in 1982 that replaced temporary bleachers and helped capture the overflowing crowds that thrilled to the horses blowing by them. It goes on for many feet but is very intact in its cement foundation way. I like to think of Longacres to be like an add-on house that grew as the family blossomed. This north end is the add-on in multiple stages to accommodate everyone.
As I walked back to my car that day I took this video walking north from this staircase towards the entrance units. This will give you a good idea of how the overall appearance of the foundations on the north side appear today (Spring 2016).
This is where I mistakenly thought I had been on the original grandstand and turned my attention elsewhere in the ruins. I was so wrong. When I got home and did my research comparing photos I realized my mistake and went back to the site. That second visit I found the real Longacres Racetrack of old.
This grandstand is almost 80 years old and Boeing has built a path from its campus to the Light Rail Station that carves through the north edge of it. Here you are surrounded by more red tile. Bill Taylor gave me a little bit of info on the red tile after I posted this. Here is what he said – “A lot of the red tile was at the entrance to the main office area, Morrie’s office and atrium, the family conference room and some of the main line.” That sure dispels what I heard someone say.. “it is the bathrooms”. I never believed that. This area sure makes one has to realize you are in a place of another time. Some may not even know the history nor care but to ponder what was lost and gone is important. Yes, how could we so quickly discard our history for being modern or make more money?
I wandered around in the bushes trying to get the bearings of what was and followed along the edge of the area behind a fence but in an old parking lot. There was a pile of rocks on an area and more red tiles. My gut tells me I am now in the old Clubhouse. One of the tiles had been pulled up and so I picked it up. To my delight it was made in Italy.
This tile is made in an area of Italy that is famous for tiles and I am going to send a picture to one of the manufacturer to see if they can confirm the date and maker of this tile.
As I worked my way around I came to two old lombardy poplars and some more cement items left hanging out.
As I neared the track I encountered more of the green railing and decided I must be down by the Jockey House. That was when I met Tina and her dog. They were walking along like they have for years. She sort of adopted me and my quest and showed me more things that I had missed. We walked up the racetrack back to the Boeing path and then came back to where I found the tile.
She next showed me more tile around where the Jockey House was. Different than the red tiles and I think they are bathroom and shower floors. At least that is my assumption.
At the end I got up on the Light Rail Station and took a series of photos from south to north. This slide show will give you a good idea of what this older end looks like. For reference first look at an aerial view of the buildings.
Now that I have set the foundations out for you I am going to move to the green wall. This is a huge piece of the ruins that are still standing. They are buried in the woods now and one has to get into the brambles to find. You can find The Green Wall at this link Longacres Ruins Green Wall
The Freeway Osprey I have been writing about hatched two chicks this week. Mr Racks has been so gracious to maintain the feed on Livestream. Their first event ran out of time and they have created a new event. Here is the new link to follow:
They have also had some technical issues lately, fixing the feed Friday after going down and then today it is down again. I am sure by tomorrow we will be able to watch the wonder of their raising again. I was hoping to do a snapshot of the babies for you but that will have to wait.
What I have found this week so fascinating is how both parents participate in their raising. Mom and Dad are both spending time feeding, sitting and hunting.
A Big Thank YOU to Mr. Racks for sharing their resident Osprey pair with us.
Remember the Osprey Nest next to I-405 I wrote about earlier? It is on my way to work, so twice a day I look to see if I can tell what is happening. I usually see a head poking up, that confirms they are raising their family. Here is a link to my prior post.
Weeks ago I sent an email to the PSE avian protection biologists asking them if there was an active video feed on this nest they moved. I got an answer that Mr. Racks, who is the next door neighbor to the next platform, has them hooked up via Livestream. Here is that link for your viewing pleasure. http://livestream.com/accounts/12941964
Friday morning I stopped under the nest and actually caught a parent shift change. Then I went online and found where I entered the picture. The Osprey on the nest was a clue to my presence since he/she was certainly watching in my direction. If you want to see that time on the video feed push it back to 31.10. Then at 31.14 you can see my car turning around and leaving. (that time will only last as long as their DVR can hold video – so check it out soon).
Here is what it looks like from below with all the wires and cellular tower around it. Look carefully at the first picture and you can see the osprey landing on the tower. The second photo is him/her sitting on it.
This slide show is a series of photos I took right when I got out of the car and saw the Osprey fly over. Look closely at the nest and you can see the take off. Hope you enjoyed the Freeway Ospreys.
Last year, 2014, every day I came to work I watched this Osprey family raise their baby. I was fascinated by their ability to nest so close to one of the region’s busiest freeways. Yes, right at the northbound Interstate 405 exit to Highway 167 in Renton, there they were perched above it all.
Friday, as I drove to work, I was delighted that they had returned. To add to my delight, when I reviewed the photos I took, I found that the nest has what I think is a video camera on it. That means the Crow Stalker will have to do some research to find if that is in use by anyone.
In the meantime, enjoy the view of the nesting platform next to a freeway.
Been a long week for us in Seattle. We had snow and ice causing our office to be closed for a couple days. Friday we all got there safely and found the roof was leaking. The office next to me had the ceiling tiles fall down and pretty much make Craig’s furniture and files toast. I got off easy with a ruined chair and keyboard.
When I left it was just getting dusk and the Renton Murder was flying into the trees and onto the roof top. This time of year they gather by the thousands every night. I like to describe it as one big Crow Party where they share food sites, romance each other and gossip about the days events. The snow and ice storm must have made finding food more difficult. The ones that frequent our back yard did a lot of begging. This large group has to have some favorite food sights where the garbage picking is good to sustain them.
They are not unlike a crowd of humans going to a sports event. They come streaming into the venue and get all settled in for the show. The big difference is they do this not on their feet but by wing. I often wonder how they keep from crashing into each other when flying in these big groups. As humans we can’t seem to keep our cars from crashing. They master this flying which is so much wilder requiring real navigation skills. Enjoy this short video showing the Fly In.