Former King County Landmark Leveled with One Employee’s Signature

Is erasing history as simple as the swipe of a pen? Absolutely, says the King County Landmarks and Heritage Commission. The parcel located at 18825 SE Renton-Maple Valley Road (SR-169), Renton, WA, 98058, just outside the far eastern edge of the city of Renton, resides in unincorporated King County. Maple Valley is still about ten miles further on SR-169. The mine used to be called the “Indian Mine” or “New Black Diamond Mine.” See the hand-drawn map, below, for the railroad route.

Hand-drawn map of Pacific Coast Rail Road Company’s rail line in Seattle, Newcastle, Renton and Black Diamond.

It has a colorful history. Originally, it was home to Duwamish for tens of thousands of years, as a prime fishing spot (very close to a river teeming with life), and great place to live, with well-protected natural geography. Once coal was discovered, a mine, barracks, and offices were constructed. Once the mine was depleted, it was filled with industrial waste and sealed.

photograph of a wooded Cedar River in wintertime, no leaves on the deciduous trees.
The Cedar River in unincorporated King County, WA, USA, 17 February 2018.

For many years it was the King County Maintenance shops site, where vehicles and heavy equipment were serviced and parked. The ground is not paved, and environmental restrictions at the time were non-existent, so there is a large amount of pollution from the leaking vehicles in the dirt currently. Next it was purchased by Goodnight Properties, who housed Sunset Materials, where things like gravel, mulch, dirt and rocks are stored and delivered. Around 2017, Lakeside Industries purchased the parcel for $7 million US dollars, which is a large appreciation from the prior sale.

black & white photo of the bunkers of the men who worked on the New Black Diamond (or Indian) Mine in southeast King County, WA, USA.
The bunkers of the 500 men who worked on the New Black Diamond (or Indian) Mine in southeast King County, WA, USA.

Even though the property was always used as an industrial site, on the books the parcel was listed the same as all of the adjacent properties: RA-5 (rural residential). During a routine King County Council meeting in approximately 2008, the site was changed from the zoning from RA-5 to Industrial, with the following caveat: the parcel be designated as Industrial, only if it remained in its present use (landscape materials handling). This is because the King County Comprehensive Plan does not allow for “spot zoning” (one parcel of land among other parcels that does not match the land use), except in certain circumstances, for example a water-park in a residential neighborhood, because it is welcomed by the neighbors. A hot-mix and recycled asphalt plant belching steam, odors and emissions is not welcome by neighbors. Increasing truck traffic on the already heavily congested SR-169 will not be welcome by neighbors.

photo of 18825 SE Renton-Maple Valley Highway, future Lakeside Asphalt plant, when it was still being used by Mutual Materials. Multiple semi-trucks/tractor-trailers/heavy equipment being used on materials processing site (mulch, bark, gravel).
ca. 2018 photo of 18825 SE Renton-Maple Valley Highway, future Lakeside Asphalt plant, when it was still being used by Mutual Materials.

A building on the site was a designated King County Historic Landmark, but with one employee’s signature, that was rendered moot and Lakeside Industries could demolish the building in 2018. It has since been demolished.

Old map showing the Black River, which connected the Duwamish and Cedar Rivers, before it was dammed up to starve out the remaining Duwamish who refused to move off of the increasingly valuable land.

More reading/references:

2 thoughts on “Former King County Landmark Leveled with One Employee’s Signature

  1. Thanx for referencing my article on what the old site of the New Black Diamond Coal Mine looks like today. If the readers of this article are interested in more history of the area I wrote several articles around this mine. Plus the mines at the top of the hill and just around the bend on Maple Valley Highway.

    If anyone is interested you can find all of my research on Lost Coal Mines of Renton. The New Black Diamond and my current research on Cedar Mountain (which is adjacent to NBD) articles are towards the bottom of this directory.

    Hope everyone enjoys what can happen in 100 years. One would not even recognize the area if you time traveled to today from then.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks again for your research in this area. When growing up in Maple Valley I remember this as the King County Shops – the maintenance area mentioned above. I didn’t know its history as a coal mine.

    Liked by 1 person

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