By Mia Jung
On a recent visit to a Seattle job site, I found a few spare hours to explore the city. Per numerous suggestions, I went downtown, to the Pike Place Market.
Historic photo, North on Pike Place
The Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers’ markets in the country. Prior to its founding in 1907, farmers sold their goods to wholesalers who then sold the goods to warehouses. In this exchange, farmers lost money or just broke even and consumers were charged significantly overpriced rates.
After another large price hike in 1906 left farmers and consumers furious, the Seattle City Councilman proposed the city create a market space where farmers could sell directly to consumers, eliminating the need for price gouging middlemen.
On August 17, 1907, the market opened with eight farmers and much success—the first farmer selling out within minutes! In just the first week, seventy wagons were gathering daily on the wooden roadway newly named Pike Place.
Public Market Center sign on the corner of First and Pike, dating to 1927. It is one of the oldest neon signs on the West coast.
Soon enough, construction of the permanent arcades began until 1922, when its current footprint was complete with eleven buildings. The farmers contributing goods were primarily Japanese- and Italian- American.
During the 1920s and 1930s the market prospered. However, with the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s, around two-thirds of the market’s vendors were forced into internment camps. Still, during WWII, the market continued to prosper under the new guidance of an Italian-American farmer. After the war, the market finally began to fall into hard times.
Rachel the Pig, a 550 lb. bronze piggy bank that collects donations for the community’s myriad nonprofit social services since 1986.
By the 1960s, the deteriorating market was set for demolition, to be replaced with skyscrapers. A “Save the Market” campaign rallied voters and ultimately protected Pike Place Market as a historic district. In 1971, Seattle began to restore and rehabilitate the market and its buildings.
Being a huge coffee and pastry addict, I could smell the good bakeries from a mile away and that is how I found this place. I got my usual latte and three pastries to go with me.
Today, Pike Place Market is home to an eclectic community of craftspeople and contains a thriving marketplace. It is comprised of 11 buildings with six levels of roughly 500 shops spread across nine acres. There are bakeries, lunch counters, and restaurants, as well as boutiques and shops of every kind, for doughnuts, cheese, coffee, sea food, fresh produce, flowers, original art and jewelry, soap, apparel, and more! Stalls are given based on seniority and a first-come-first serve system, so vendors may differ daily.
The original Starbucks opened here in 1971, but moved to its present location a few blocks away in 1975. Coffee is still served there with the original logo on display.
It is right off the Port of Seattle, with a beautiful view of the waterfront and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Pike Place Market remains Seattle’s center of fresh, high quality, and locally made goods. It is also a warm and supportive community center. I encourage anyone in Seattle to wander through it!