Seattle’s Pike Place Market: 110 Years!

Today marks the 110th anniversary of the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington! It ranks in my top five things that I miss about living in Seattle. I resided in that wonderful city for over a decade after leaving the state of Alaska. My family moved from Seattle to Alaska when I was three, and I returned to the state and city of my birth after I turned 21. Pike Place Market was always a popular destination for me, and I lived in walking distance from it for most of the time I lived in Seattle.

Here’s a bit of history about the Market, courtesy of its official website:

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.

The “stair-climb” was the best daily exercise I got in the city, and spending a few hours at the Market on a Saturday or Sunday was not uncommon. The selection of fresh meats, seafood, and produce was unbeatable. The unique shops on every level of the marketplace always provided their own surprises! I would take my son there every weekend and we’d enjoy wandering along the waterfront, riding the carousel at Pier 54, and taking home a small bag of fresh-made mini-doughnuts to nibble on in the courtyard and watch the birds and squirrels.

Happy Eleventy-th birthday, Pike Place Market! I wish that I could attend the festivities, but roaming the shops in my memory and mind’s eye will suffice. Recalling “Pike’s Place,” before the housing and population boom which has rendered the waterfront a complete eyesore, will always be quite the pleasant interlude. I have plenty of pictures as well, but they are only shared with my nearest and dearest!

😉 ❤ 😎

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