Coke Oven Park listed as endangered historic site

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation Wednesday announced it has placed Coke Oven Park in the town of Wilkeson as part of its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Properties in the state of Washington.

According to the Trust, the coke ovens are the only evidence left to tell Pierce County’s coal industry story of the boom time in “uptown” Wilkeson. The Tacoma Coal & Coke Co. built the first 25 beehive coke ovens at Wilkeson in 1885 and 50 more ovens were added in 1891. By 1902, 100 ovens were in constant use and 160 ovens lined the road to uptown Wilkeson. Coke was then shipped to ports as far as San Francisco and Alaska. Coke production reached a maximum of 125,872 tons in 1916, then declined steadily until production terminated in 1937. The mine shafts were sealed, and other buildings removed. The ovens are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington State Heritage Register and Pierce County Registers and today are threatened with lack of protection from vandalism, neglect and vegetation overgrowth.

The other seven historic properties being named to the list include Moran School Administration Building, Bainbridge Island; Murray and Rosa Morgan House, Auburn; Quad 7 Hangar (West Coast Airlines Hanger), Seattle; National Historic District, Roslyn; Skykomish Hotel, Skykomish; Trafton Elementary, Arlington; and the Reard Freed Farmhouse, Sammamish.

Over the years, historic sites in Tacoma have made the Trust’s list. In 1992, the Luzon Building and the Japanese Language School were included on the list. In 2003, the Elk’s Temple was listed. First United Methodist Church was listed in 2006. The Murray Morgan Bridge was listed in 2008. In Pierce County, the Trust has listed Kelley Farm in Bonney Lake; Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood; Balch House and Nathaniel Orr House in Steilacoom; Curran House in University Place; and Fleischmann’s Yeast Plant in Sumner.

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