Roslyn, Washington: “Northern Exposure” Town


For some reason, small towns in Washington State got a lot of TV time in the early 1990’s.  Not only did David Lynch choose Snoqualmie and North Bend (just up the road) as a backdrop for Twin Peaks, but the tiny town of Roslyn also landed a starring role in the comedy/drama Northern Exposure.

I’m betting, as soon as you saw that picture of the mural, that appeared in the opening scenes of the show, with a moose walking by, it all came back to you. (Watch it on Youtube)  The mural is almost exactly the same as it was in Northern Exposure, the only difference is, for the TV show, they changed the sign slightly, from Roslyn to Roslyn’s.

The cafe remains in business, although it has limited hours, and it wasn’t open when I was there (which was too bad, because I wouldn’t have minded a sandwich).

Many of the false-front stores look exactly the same as they did in the TV series.  It’s no wonder that it was chosen to look like the remote (fictional) town of Cicely, Alaska.  But in reality, Roslyn is much farther south, in the Lower 48, tucked away nicely in the middle of the Cascade Mountains.  It’s just a short drive from Interstate 90, about 90 minutes from downtown Seattle, in good traffic.

Cicely’s radio station played a big role in Northern Exposure.  Some of the scenes were shot right here, in a storefront that has apparently remained untouched for more than a decade.  You can peer through the glass walls for a good look at the “on location” set — the studio also had an identical one, on a sound stage (probably in Hollywood), to allow a cheaper way to film some scenes.  But here in Cicely, er, Roslyn, this set is obviously showing the effects of passing time — just look at the warped records on the wall.  Yeah, records.  They had those back then.

My Northern Exposure memories are somewhat vague, but I’m pretty sure that you also saw “The Brick” in the show.  Aside from its brush with television fame, The Brick is also notable as Washington’s oldest continually-operating bar.

The Brick first opened in 1889.  Nowadays, it serves drinks and has a well-rounded food menu, and you can catch a live band performing most Friday and Saturday nights.

Spend a few minutes wandering around town on foot, and you’ll see some painted signs…

… and some nicely-maintained homes.  I’m guessing some Miracle-Gro has been used here.

Please don’t get the two confused.

Before getting back into my car, which was parked near the Roslyn Cafe, I took a moment to wander through this open-air museum of old mining cars.

The coal mining industry is what first brought people to Roslyn and the surrounding area.  The bituminous veins were discovered in 1883, and the town was laid out three years later.

The facilities are also nearby, just in case you consumed a little too much at The Brick.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive out of Roslyn, and on to Leavenworth, via WA 903, 970, US 97, and 2.

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