The first step in the renovation of Mary’s Freezer Shop into the Roslyn Café was one of demolition. Besides tearing out very old wooden booths that went back years into the atmosphere of homemade ice cream, milkshakes and hamburgers served to several generations of coal miners and their families, there was the tearing down of the Wall. This was the long side wall opposite what was then the kitchen area, a long bar with bar stools, and terrazzo floors, probably originally installed by one of the many Italians who immigrated to Roslyn.
Not knowing where or how to start creating the new atmosphere in this 100- year- old building, I would close my eyes and try to visualize what I would like to see in the interior, the first scene to greet someone swinging open the heavy front door for the first time. This is where The Wall came in. It was the first thing I imagined on the inside of what was a two story sandstone building constructed of large quarried stones cemented together that faced the main street in town, Pennsylvania Avenue, and went back up the side street about a half a block. I had a sudden and knowing desire to bring the outside inside. This would mean tearing off the plaster and whatever else covered the stone wall on the inside of the Café to be. I had no idea how to go about this but figured I would find out by asking locals in town, skilled in so many trades.
Quarried Sandstone Outer and Inner Walls of Building
I ran into a fellow I had known in Seattle who had been a bartender at the Blue Moon, a famous old tavern in the University District. Tad had a small farm right outside of town where he boarded friends’ horses, pursued his love of creating and firing pottery and also managed The Foundry in Roslyn. The Foundry reminded me of Richard Brautigan’s Watermelon Sugar and his writing of Forgotten Works. It was timeless, something that seemed forged by craftsmen from another era. Even the building had the feeling of bygone days, metal walls, smoke billowing in huge gasps out of chimneys, metal castings formed from scalding hot melted coke and coal. The temperatures were staggering inside the building and work was hard, hot and dirty, with the ten or so men who worked there covered in soot, head to foot. But this was a popular place to work after the mines closed in the 1960s and this more recent group cemented hard and fast friendships. They loved to drink beer after work, and probably had close relationships with the retired miners and much in common – especially the everyday danger. In fact, the Foundry no longer made parts for the mines but made manhole covers for Seattle street systems.
Photo of Roslyn Foundry 1960’s
My friend Jenny met her husband to be, Pat, through these friendships and I met my friend Jon hanging out often with Tad at the Pastime Tavern. Jon started coming by the Café after work and he often wanted to help and offer knowledge on the many difficulties I was having with the learning curve encountered with this old building.
I believe it was also Tad who first brought up Robin Drake as a person who could orchestrate a crew of absolutely unskilled laborers into making the Wall a reality. He mentioned that Robin had spent several years helping renovate the Pioneer Square area of Seattle.
I remembered Robin as the partner of a woman who became a good friend of mine, both of whom I met years ago in Seattle’s Red Robin. My friend Jo was flamboyant and any description of her has to include the word “gypsy.” Whenever I visited their home on Eastlake Avenue, there were cats draped over every piece of furniture. Jo always threw the I Ching and did Tarot readings which I found fascinating and usually very close to touching on the truth. Plus of course, she insisted on doing your astrological chart. She was our mystical mother and fortune teller. She was vibrant and wise. She left Robin and disappeared out of my life before I made the move to Roslyn. I have no idea where she disappeared to and can’t imagine how to find her, because, after all, she is a gypsy.
Her partner Robin, on the other hand, was almost her opposite in looks and behavior. He was spare framed, had short white hair and white eyebrows that twisted and shot up into the air, making him look a lot like a stereotypical “devil”. He was somewhat dour, often strong willed and opinionated, especially on political matters. Yet he was intelligent and could be entertaining with his stories. He dressed in tweed jackets and tailored pants. My memory is that he was involved in local politics and at some point had worked in a government position. I know very little of his history and did not get to know him well back in the earlier days, not until he made his way to Roslyn.
Word went out through the old networks of bars and word came back that he needed a project. He came over to find me in Roslyn and it was decided, over beers at the Pastime Tavern, to have him be the overseer of the Wall project in exchange for a small amount of money and room and board.
Robin moved into the barbershop, located towards the back of the building near the furnace room. As I recall, two marble and leather barber chairs still occupied the center of the room with antique wash sinks installed against one wall, windows all along the street front and the proverbial barbershop pole outside the door. There was little space to call home but he lived there for weeks before this project came to an end.
The wall took on an unexpected shape and communally festive air. It was fascinating work, first drilling around each rock to remove old cement after tearing down the mess of dusty plaster. Robin taught us the art of tuck-point, pushing with putty knives the newly made cement back into the openings around each rock to provide solidity. Pat and Jenny, Jon, sometimes Tad, my sister Jill who had moved into town, and others drifting in, picked up tools, climbed ladders and did their part to make a long, beautiful rock Wall.
The really interesting occurrence during the workdays was meeting the many curious townsfolk who stopped by to express their opinions and tell stories of their history with the building. Great advice was given to myself and others about food preferences and favorite recipes, such as the celebratory Italian practice of “Bagna Cauda.” Cooking in small groups around a hot bath of olive oil, butter, garlic and anchovies, celebrants would each take a corner of the assembled electric frying pans and place their favorite vegetables, seafood, and meats in to saute – then pour this mix onto crusty Italian bread and savor the flavors. Salute! A great tradition on holidays.
Most remarkable, several people asked about how to apply for jobs and the great crew of Roslyn Café coworkers and friends began to form at the building of the Wall. Every day was like a housewarming. The Wall project definitely moved the Roslyn Café towards what it would become in the future.
This restaurant in Roslyn would not be posh, but would serve the townsfolk, the retired miners, the new hippies, the loggers and other characters, such as the New Orleans shrimp fishermen, the many folks who didn’t fit into any knowable category. It would not be fancy, but it would be fun and comfortable and have a feel of the rough and tumble history of the town.
Café Open with Wall in the Background