Gaffney’s Grove at Lake Wilderness
By Angelee Warrington
If you were a child at any point in your Maple Valley residency, then you have most likely been to Lake Wilderness. Perhaps you’ve had your wedding at the lodge or you’ve ventured to the park to celebrate the annual fireworks show on Independence Day. The first weekend of June the park fills up with rides, carnival games, fair food and a variety of booths. Barbeques, family reunions or simply a chance to let your little ones release some of their energy has most likely brought you to this sprawling 117 acre park. I personally have fond memories of celebrating field day during the last days of school at the park, walking with our teacher from Lake Wilderness Elementary along the old trails, passing the arboretum.
Originally the site of one of the larger mills in Maple Valley, Hanson mill, by 1950 Lake Wilderness would become a popular resort called Gaffney’s Grove. The resort included 60 rental cabins, a store and two swimming beaches complete with gravel and sand, slides, trapezes, and diving towers. It also had boat rentals, a bowling alley, roller rink, restaurant, dance hall, nine-hole golf course, baseball fields, tennis courts and a private air-strip.
In the first half of the 20th Century, adventurous Seattleites would spend their free time exploring the wild wilderness of the Cascade foothills, staying at one of the many resorts that dotted the lakes and rivers. When Lawrence Jacobsen bought a piece of land from Alec Turnbull in the early 1900s, he knew that he had to keep up with the resort trend. With his farm including the old mill lake, it was a perfect place to accommodate fisherman and hunters. After exchanging hands a few times, two brothers by the name of Tom and Kane Gaffney would lease part of the land adding a few cabins that they rented.
Kane, a musician from Sprague, WA, first became interested in setting up a resort, when he was a performer at one of the outdoor concerts held on the lake. It was a successful venture and the brothers would purchase the property in 1926. By 1927, Lake Wilderness Grove was born. But that small part of the property wasn’t enough. Two other resorts, Dieckmans and McKinney were along the lake. The brothers would buy out both of those resorts. The McKinney resort included a ballroom, a roller rink and a famous chicken dinner restaurant. By 1949 the resort was incorporated. At its peak, Gaffney’s saw upwards of 9,000 guests in a day.
WWII was a very popular year for the resort. Gas was rationed so people would take buses to the dance hall on Saturday nights. After the war, automobiles would allow locals to drive the short distance to attend the dances or take a day trip to go swimming. Out of towners would stay in the cabins dotting the park. When the North Bend-Tacoma Highway was built, the Gaffney brothers anticipated a growth in park visitors.
The brothers invested in a 20,000 square foot lodge designed by architects Young & Richardson which would earn the National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1952. The column itself is a piece of art, carved in the local Native culture, by Dudley Carter during the 1949 King County Fair. The lodge opened on June 24, 1950, which included the new airstrip. Over 8,000 people attended the opening.
Gaffney’s was a popular resort, often appearing in newspapers and magazine. In the September 1952 issue of Flying magazine, Irving Petite promotes the easy accessibility of this resort, “This wilderness is within easy reach for weekend vacationers whose highway is the sky”. In the June 8th, 1952 edition of the Seattle Times, Seattle residence Joe and Janice Krenmayr compare the resort to their amazing experiences while traveling in the southern lake region of Chile, “Down in the beautiful Lakes Region of Southern Chile we visited a resort hotel which we proclaimed the finest we’d ever seen and at the time we lamented that should some of our Chilean friends make good on their promise to visit us, we had no treat near Seattle that could compare with Hotel Puyehue. I take it back! We’ve discovered many places already, and Gaffney’s should be a super treat. First of all, they can land on a private air strip right in front of the hotel! Inside, they hardly can fail to be as impressed as we were by the spiral stairway which follows a carved totem pole rising through the center of the lobby, the only totally suspended steel stairway known to have been built...”
By the 1960s the crowds would die down and the park was purchased by King County in 1964. By 1969, 40 acres of the park would become the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. The park would eventually remove most of the cabins, slides and diving towers. The playground and beach area would be updated. In 2003, the city of Maple Valley would purchase the park.
1. Krall, Lorene. The Story of Our Community Maple Valley, WA. Lorene Krall, 1953.
2. Lorenz, Laura. Historical Sketch of the Greater Maple Valley Area. Card Sharks Printers, 1986
3. Petite, I. (1952, September). Gaffney's Lake Wilderness. Flying Magazine, 51(3), 33.
4. Kcarchivist. (2017, January 31). Lake Wilderness Lodge: Mid-Century Modern, Pacific Northwest Style.
Retrieved April 25, 2019, from
Krenmayr, Joe and Janice. “Rediscovering the Pacific Northwest: Lake Wilderness.” The Seattle Times, 8 June 1952.
Summer 2020 Edition
Cedar Mountain: A lost town amongst the Highway
By Angelee Warrington
The traffic oh the traffic! If you are like most residents of Maple Valley you’ve driven down the nightmare we call Maple Valley Highway. As many of you head towards your jobs, you’ll inch your way to work passing by Wilderness Village on your left, maybe you’ll drop your kid off at Lake Wilderness Elementary on your way. You might pull into McDonalds to get an egg McMuffin or you’ll pass it by glancing at the police station on your right. Perhaps you’ll get on highway 18 from here, if your lucky. If you are one of the many that still need to make your way to 405 you’ll continue down the highway passing the Cedar River. Your thoughts will
probably wonder to the stresses of life, after all, you’ve driven down this road a million times. As you approach the traffic light at Jones road, you’ll barely notice the land around you. You’ll move on down the road, hoping the line at Starbuck’s drive-thru isn’t long. You don’t even realize that 120 years ago the town of Cedar Mountain stood on this ground.
An 1880 county map
shows a road winding over the ridge south of there and to the Cedar River at Cedar Mountain. No direct route from Renton down the valley existed at that time.  It is hard to believe that this flat highway was once rolling hills and the main form of transportation was a railroad that hugged the Cedar River. Amongst those rolling hills was the town of Cedar Mountain.
Buildings once stood at the base of the hill where 196th S.E. (across from Jones Road) meets Maple Valley Highway and continued to the flat at the river
It is even harder to imagine that an entrance to the mine once sat where 196th meets Maple Valley Highway.
Cedar Mountain was a town born of coal. Originally discovered by Duwamish Valley homesteader Martin L. Cavanaugh on a land survey mission, he intended to claim this land. However, Cavanaugh couldn’t keep his mouth shut and word quickly got out. James M. Colman’s claimed it forming the Cedar Mountain Coal company and Cavanaugh was forced to claim land further down the river.
Coal Mining began at the base of Cedar Mountain in 1884 and ended in 1944.  It never produced a large amount of coal, but it produced enough to form the little town.
It had all the fixing of a coal company town: stores, a hotel, bunkhouses, a school, a church, mines, a post office and a railroad station. Miners cabins consisted of three rooms. The officials and their families lived in larger homes.
Sarah and Louis Sermon lived in Cedar Mountain. Louis was a mechanic and engineer in the mine, as well as a manager of the general store.  They lived at Cedar Mountain for 27 years.
In the book 100 Years Along the Cedar. , Mrs. Sermon recalls living in Cedar Mountain. Their first home was a small cedar shacks at the foot of the hill. After Louis became manager of the general store, they lived above it. Eventually they would acquire a large farmhouse on the flat across the river. Mrs. Sermon also ran a boarding house and became a well-known seamstress.
One of the most exciting events Mrs. Sermon experienced was the great Seattle fire. “We were
fishing in the river that hot June day when we saw the huge clouds of smoke. News reached us that Seattle was burning. Some of the miners were frantic because they had left their good clothes and most of their belongings in Seattle Hotels.
They got on the next coal train to go to town and see what they could save.”
Besides the work of coal mining, the town folks had a variety of activities. Music and dancing were some of their favorite pastimes. Primarily of Scotch, English and Irish descent, they would dance the polka, square dance, Schottisches and quadrilles to a fiddle.
“Slashing bees” were all day affairs that involved the burning of brush and slashing of timber. The day would end with food and dancing. During the colder months of winter, tracks would be cleared of snow so they could take the pump cars up to Maple
Valley to attend the dance halls there. It would take all night to get home, but they didn’t care. Shoot, they even hauled an organ all the way up the steep hill of 196th for an evening of dancing at a housewarming party.
The town is gone now. If you wander down the trail system at Cedar Mountain Road, you can close your eyes and wonder what stories happened on this land. You can see the buildings and hear the children.
Lorenz, Laura. Historical Sketch of the Greater Maple Valley Area. Card Sharks Printers, 1986.
McDonald, L. (961, April 2). Lost towns of King County: Busy Cedar Mountain of former years now is only a memory. The Seattle Times.
Slauson, M. C. (1967). One Hundred Years Along the Cedar River. Maple Valley, WA: King County Library System.