Issaquah, Washington owes its conception to the unique mining opportunities in the surrounding mountains. The town developed to service the mining industry that moved into the area but, unlike most boom towns across the country, it did not die when the mines dried up a few decades later. The lifeblood of the community turned to logging on and around Tiger Mountain. Today, these industries have moved out of the Issaquah Alps but they continue to lure people to the area to get a taste of life as a miner or logger. The community takes great pride in their roots and make every effort to hang on to the historic hometown vibe.
This community effort is most visible when shopping at Gillman Village located in downtown Issaquah. The shopping center is comprised of unused farming and mining buildings, and pioneer homes from around Issaquah. Local developers moved and renovated the buildings creating a park-like feel to honor the origins of their town rather than commemorate it in a museum. The ambiance of the shopping center drew in independent shops and restaurants that give Gillman Village that quaint feel. Over the years, the design and landscaping have won official recognition from the King County Board of Realtors and the Issaquah Design Commission as well as the Eastside Quality of Life award from the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.
The once-prosperous mines in the area have long since stopped producing but are still a major attraction to people from all walks of life. The Issaquah Historical Museum offers hikes to the Grand Ridge Mine, the Tiger Mountain Mine and the Old Towne Mine offering the opportunity to walk in the miner's shoes and explore the beautiful surrounding state parks in the area while hearing about the historic events that shaped the community from museum trail guides.
The Grand Ridge Mine is the longest running mine in Issaquah dating back to 1888. You will get to hike through the Grand Ridge State Park following the same route taken by the miners on their way to work in the dangerous, uncomfortable conditions of the mine. You are led from downtown Issaquah following the old rail bed of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the spur that leads to the best-preserved mine site in the area.
The Historic Tiger Mountain Mine brought crime and corruption to Issaquah at the beginning of the 20th century. The eclectic mix of people over the years has inspired fascinating tales that earned this mine a rough reputation known across the West. The knowledgeable guides will tell you about the structures and operations of the Tiger Mountain Mine, as well as introduce you to the prominent historical figures that helped shape Issaquah.
Mining is not the only industry that helped shape Issaquah. Once the mines dried up, logging became the primary source of commerce. Like with any natural resource, the trees soon thinned, and the logging industry moved on to more plentiful areas. The local history museum offers a hike into the near barren Tiger Mountain to visit the Highpoint Logging Camp. Guides pass on their stories while you wander through the remnant sawmills and other left-over debris.
People who are unable or unwilling to trek into the hills for the historic tours, the Ole Towne Mine Hike takes a look at the mines located in downtown Issaquah. You will learn about the area's history through photos and maps while walking from the historic Train Depot along Issaquah Creek dam and over to Mine Hill before returning to downtown. When you get back to the Train Depot, the Issaquah Valley Trolley will be waiting. This heritage trolley service provided by the Issaquah Historical Society is a favorite of both locals and visitors. It offers round-trip rides from the Issaquah Depot Museum to Gilman Boulevard using the original remaining section of track through downtown.
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