“One of the Greatest Days in the History of Seattle”
At the turn of the century, Seattle was a rough and tumble place and a rapidly growing city. As the population of gold rushers, loggers, fishermen, shipbuilders and merchants grew, so did the demand for produce and goods from the city’s neighboring farms. In the decade of 1890-1900, Seattle’s population nearly doubled, growing from 42,000 to 80,000 citizens.
Farmers brought their vegetables, fruit, milk, dairy, eggs and meat to the city by horse drawn wagons and by ferry from the nearby islands. The goods were purchases by wholesalers, who sold the goods at a commission at warehouses on Western Ave. In this system, farmers occasionally made a profit but increasingly only broke even or lost money.
In 1906-1907, the price of produce—onions namely—soared, leaving the farmers none the richer and the citizens angry over the price gouging. The uproar led one local official to try to find a solution. In the summer of 1907, Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle proposed the city create a public market place where farmers and consumers could meet directly to sell and buy goods and thereby sidelining the wholesalers.
On the public market’s first day, August 17, 1907, crowds of shoppers seeking fresh produce and bargains descended upon the new marketplace. The first farmer sold out of produce within minutes. Within a week, 70 wagons were gathering daily to sell along the newly named Pike Place, a wooden roadway that connected First St. to Western Ave.
Councilman Revelle’s words of dedication ring true more than a century later:
“The Market is yours. I dedicate it to you and may it prove of benefit to you and your children. It is for you to protect, defend, and uphold and it is for you to see that those who occupy it treat you fairly. … This is one of the greatest days in the history of Seattle.”
Developer Frank Goodwin, who had recently returned with a small fortune from the Klondike Gold Rush, saw an opportunity in the flourishing market and began construction of the permanent arcades that make up the heart of today’s Market. The Market prospered during the 1920s and 1930s, and was home to a lively mix of Japanese and Italian American farmers, struggling artists, political radicals, and eccentrics.
Italian farmer Joe Desimone purchased the Market’s main arcades in 1941 and guided it through World War II, when 1st Avenue attracted thousands of sailors and soldiers along with ration-book bargain hunters. As suburbs and supermarkets sprouted after World War II, the Market fell on hard times, while still supporting an eclectic community of artists and craftspeople.
When the maze of aging buildings was slated for demolition in the 1960s, architect Victor Steinbrueck rallied Seattle to “Save the Market.” Voters approved a 17-acre historic district on November 2, 1971, and the City of Seattle later established the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority to rehabilitate and manage the Market’s core buildings.
Today, Pike Place Market remains Seattle’s neighborhood marketplace, the center of fresh, locally produced and high quality foods, goods and handcrafted products.
Pike Place Market Timeline
1907 August 17Six to 12 farmers bring their produce-filled wagons to Pike Place on opening day. They sell out by lunchtime. That same day Frank Goodwin of Goodwin Realty advertises two properties for sale on Pike Place for $16,000 and $38,000. Goodwin goes on to be the first manager of the Market.
1907 November 30Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle dedicates the Market to the people of Seattle after Frank Goodwin completes construction of first building, with 76 produce stalls.
1907 August 5thThe Seattle City Council passes Council Member Thomas Revelle's ordinance to create a public farmers market on Pike Place.
1909Athenian Inn opens, with two Greek brothers as the owners.
1910Stalls are added thanks to a $10,000 contribution from the City of Seattle. Sanitary Market building opens.
1911The Seattle City Council creates the jobs of Market Inspector (later changed to Market Master), Assistant Market Inspector, and Janitor. The Market Master is a job that still exists today.
1912Corner Market building opens, with Three Girls Bakery as one of the shops.
The first of many proposals to create a new look to super-size the Market is rejected by Seattle voters.
1918The City of Seattle creates City Fish to counter the high price of fish.
1922With construction complete, the configuration of the Market looks much like it does today. Branch of the Seattle Public Library opens on lower floor.
Arthur Goodwin takes over as manager of the Market from his uncle Frank.
Arthur Goodwin's book Markets: Public and Private is published, which becomes a textbook for creation of markets.
1930Delivery man Peter DeLaurenti marries Mamie-Marie Mustelo, who works for her mother's grocery. In 1946, after they purchase the grocery, they create DeLaurenti Grocery, which becomes one of the best-known shops in the Market.
Farmer Giuseppe "Joe" Desimone owns more than half the shares in the Pike Place Public Market Company, making him the major decision maker. Joe went from selling his produce in the Market to become manager of the Market into the 1940s. The Desimone family retains ownership of Pike Place Market buildings until the 1970s.
1935Dance Hall operates in the Economy Market Building. The Market during the Depression was a central community gathering place as well as a major food center.
1937Neon sign and clock installed.
1938Artist Mark Tobey begins a years-long chronicle of the Market in sketches and paintings.
1941Sanitary Market building burns just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
1942In April, the Market loses over half of its farmers due to the internment of Japanese-Americans. Hundreds of stalls go empty.
Engineer Harlan Edwards, husband of Seattle City Council member Myrtle Edwards, proposes development in the Market that includes a 1,500-car parking garage. As the 1950s progress, Market buildings increasingly need repair as residential patterns shift away from downtown.
Pike Plaza Project proposed to rejuvenate the Market (urban renewal). Skyscrapers would replace most Market buildings. The plan is backed by the mayor, many members of the Seattle City Council, and merchants in the Market community.
1964Friends of the Market, led by architect and civic activist Victor Steinbrueck, forms to oppose plans to redevelop the Market.
1965Art Stall Gallery, a cooperative owned by a dozen women, opens.
Friends of the Market gathers 53,000 voter signatures to save the Market from the wrecking ball.
1.5 acres in the Pike Place Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A larger area is added to the historic district listing in 1972. The historic district is now nine acres.
1971 November 2Seattle voters approve Initiative 1 to "Keep the Market" from the wrecking ball.
1971Starbucks opens March 30 at Pike Place and Virginia Street.
1973The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) is created by the City of Seattle to act as public trustee of the Market. The charter document continues to guide the Market to this day.
1973Oriental Mart opens. It is still owned by the original family, the Apostols.
1974The Market is renovated. $135 million is spent on renovation ($60 million in federal funds, $75 in private investment).
1976Alm Hill Gardens Farm starts selling on Market farm tables; today they have the distinction of being the farmer with the most seniority.
Pike Market Senior Center starts in location of a former biker bar.
1978Park honoring Victor Steinbrueck opens on a former site of an armory.
The PDA completes acquisition of 80 percent of properties in the Market historic district.
The Market Foundation is created to help raise funds for the Market's social service agencies.
Campaign begins to recruit donors who for $35 can have a name placed on a floor tile. Over 46,000 named tiles line the arcade.
1986 Rachel the piggybankRachel the piggybank, which collects over $10,000 each year for the Market's child care, food bank, medical clinic and senior center, debuts under the iconic clock and sign.
1987The first-ever Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Gold Medal is given to the Pike Place Market in recognition of the Market Foundation's efforts to support the Market's social services that serve the Market's and downtown low-income population.
1991Pike Place Market PDA and the Urban Group settle years-long dispute over ownership rights of Market properties.
Piroshky Piroshky opens in the Market.
2001Artists decorate over 200 models of Rachel the piggybank for a spectacular citywide event, Pigs on Parade. Disco Pig was the first to be displayed. The pigs were auctioned in the fall by the Market Foundation to raise funds for the Market's social services.
Pike Market Senior Center opens in the new LaSalle annex building, the first new building in the Market in over 30 years.
Seattleites celebrate the centennial of the Market.