Seattle Now & Then: Friends of the Market

(click to enlarge photos)

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THEN: Depression-time customers examine the eggs and plucked hens in the Market’s North Arcade. (Courtesy Seattle Public Library)
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NOW: By counting pillars Jean Sherrard figures he is pretty close to the prospect of the historical photographer. Friends of the Market president Paul Dunn agrees. (photo by Jean Sherrard)

In 1964, or about thirty years after this depression Pike Place Market scene was photographed, architect-activist Victor Steinbrueck and others formed “Friends of the Market.” The group meant to do what it’s name decreed: save the market then from the forces of Urban Renewal – people often with good intentions but half-blinded by progress – that might have razed the market for parking lots and more offices.

“Seattle’s finest institution” was founded by farmers – and the city council – in 1907 as a way to distribute fresh goods directly from “producer to you” and so around the then dreaded “middle man.”  The market forum grew like zucchini and by 1911 vendors and farmers were already being picked through the market master’s daily lottery to lay their plucked hens, brussels sprouts and sometimes fancy needle work on these tables in the North Arcade that reached almost as far as Virginia Street.

I asked Paul Dunn, an old friend and the current president of Friends of the Market, about this depression-time photo.  Paul readily replied, “The Market was a valued destination in the Depression.  Women in hats shop for values directly from the producer, here poultry farmers with chickens and eggs. The Western view windows, the dangling light fixtures, the columns with ornamental capitals, and the two rows of theater lights are prominent still.  Today these same daytables support producers of crafts. The overhead lights are on a lower bar, the ceiling is repaired and painted, the theater lights are brighter, and the concrete floor is covered with memorial tiles. The spirit of the Goodwins, the market’s early managers, to embellish the Market as theater is still around.”

You should know that Friends of the Market is steadfast as an open membership advocate for the Pike Place Farmers Market.  It also conducts educational and historical programs. If you are interested, contact President Dunn at Friends of the Market, 85 Pike St. #92 Seattle, WA 98101.  Or call Paul at (206) 587 5767.

The Leland Hotel at the Pike Place Public Market and the covered arcades beyond it, in a "tax photo" recorded in the late 1930s.  Courtesy, Muncipal Archive.
The Leland Hotel at the Pike Place Public Market and the covered arcades beyond it, in a "tax photo" recorded in the late 1930s. Courtesy, Municipal Archive.

WEB EXTRA – FARMERS & FAMILIES

This now-then feature appeared first in The Seattle Sunday Times Pacific Northwest Magazine on Aug. 6, 2006.

THEN: The Pike Place Market started out in the summer of 1907 as a city-supported place where farmers could sell their produce directly to homemakers.  Since then the Market culture has developed many more attractions including crafts, performers, restaurants, and the human delights that are only delivered by milling and moving crowds.   {Photo Courtesy Old Seattle Paperworks in the Pike Place Market, lower level.)
THEN: The Pike Place Market started out in the summer of 1907 as a city-supported place where farmers could sell their produce directly to homemakers. Since then the Market culture has developed many more attractions including crafts, performers, restaurants, and the human delights that are only delivered by milling and moving crowds. {Photo Courtesy Old Seattle Paperworks in the Pike Place Market, lower level.)
NOW: around Rachel during the summer of 2006
NOW: around Rachel during the summer of 2006

A century ago Seattle, although barely over fifty, was already a metropolis with a population surging towards 200,000.   Consequently, now our community’s centennials are multiplying.  This view of boxes, sacks and rows of wagons and customers is offered as an early marker for the coming100th birthday of one of Seattle’s greatest institutions, the Pike Place Public Market.

Both the “then” and “now” look east from the inside angle of this L-shaped landmark.  The contemporary view also looks over the rump of Rachel, the Market’s famous brass piggy bank, which when empty is 200 pounds lighter than her namesake 750 pound Rachel, the 1985 winner of the Island County Fair.   Since she was introduced to the Market in 1986 Rachel has contributed about $8,000 a year to its supporting Market Foundation.  Most of this largess has been dropped through the slot in her back as small coins.

Next year – the Centennial Year 2007 – the Market Foundation, and the Friends of the Market, and many other vital players in the closely-packed universe that is the Market will be helping and coaxing us to celebrate what local architect Fred Bassetti famously described in the mid-1960s as “An honest place in a phony time.”  And while it may be argued that the times have gotten even phonier the market has held onto much of its candor.

The historical view may date from the Market’s first year, 1907.  If not, then the postcard photographer Otto Frasch recorded it soon after.   It is a scene revealing the original purpose of the Public Market:  “farmers and families” meeting directly and with no “middleman” between them.

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