The Brick Saloon has a history that any dive bar would be proud to boast about. Self-dubbed “the oldest operating saloon” in Washington — even if other places quibble about start dates, license continuations and name changes — it manages to be a landmark in Washington state and well worth the drive out into what my mom would call “the boonies.”
During prohibition The Brick featured access to one of the town’s numerous prohibition tunnels, helping distribute illegal booze to citizens, many of whom immigrated directly to the fledgling town of Roslyn, Washington in order to work in the area’s now-defunct coal mines. On the grounds of a nearby mountain resort, Suncadia – A Destination Hotel, a few of the old mines shafts still stand, stark as monuments, boarded over but accessible for visitors to peer down into the darkness and imagine a different time, when a gaping dark hole constituted a viable workplace. No wonder they needed booze at all costs.
Founded as a mining town back in the late 1880s, Roslyn is about 80 miles east of Seattle, just over an hour if you don’t hit traffic. The sidewalks of the miniature downtown are dotted with signs and landmarks explaining old coal cars, those aforementioned, boarded up mining shafts, and historic buildings with quirky features like double doors on the second floor, for when the snow drifted over a building story high. The town is quaint in a way that feels extra appealing in the era of smartphones, Twitter, and laptops.
These days, since the coal mines near Roslyn are long defunct, a new economy in the form of Suncadia’s secluded resort amenities has sprung up. Given the spot’s emphasis on family, it made sense to bring my own brother and sister along when I was invited to check out the resort during a recent visit to Seattle for the holidays. Our stay fell on my sister’s birthday, which gave us even more reason to do something special, and the resort provided us with a stand-alone vacation home to use instead of a block of rooms in their massive central lodge.
This is how I came to wake up on the outskirts Roslyn during one of the state’s biggest snowfalls of 2017, happy to bask in the thick, rich quiet that only a new snowfall can bring. I love the way fresh snow turns everything silent, even if we already out in the middle of nowhere. Staying in a secluded home-away-from-home in a small mountain town is definitely the most Northwest kind of vacation.
11 Miner’s Camp, as the three-bedroom home where we stayed, was dubbed (every Oregon and Washington mountain cabin has a name), offered more than enough space for the three of us — even if I rather begrudgingly took the bedroom with bunk beds. Their emphasis on hosting family is no joke, apparently.
Once we got settled into our home for the weekend, it was just a quick walk through the woods — and past the local, historic cemetery — to make our way to The Brick. TV fanatics will recognize it as the set from the series Northern Exposure, and more recently, a backdrop in The Man In The Castle. But for music fans, it represents the kind of casual, irreplaceable venue that is mostly dying out, even in the more lowkey areas of the country like the Pacific Northwest.