Seattle Now & Then: The Market – ‘An Honest Place in a Phony Time’

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A circa 1920 look north along the tiled roofline of the Pike Place Market’s North Arcade, which is fitted into the slender block between Pike Place, on the right, and Western Avenue, on the left. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: A circa 1920 look north along the tiled roofline of the Pike Place Market’s North Arcade, which is fitted into the slender block between Pike Place, on the right, and Western Avenue, on the left. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: In the near-century since our “then,” the Arcade has added the Desimone Bridge over Western, left-center. On the right, the Belltown/Denny Regrade neighborhood is being increasingly stocked with the high-rises envisioned by the original regraders, and on the left, work-in-progress on the Municipal Market space, will blend the Public Market with the new waterfront, once it is revealed with the razing of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
NOW: In the near-century since our “then,” the Arcade has added the Desimone Bridge over Western, left-center. On the right, the Belltown/Denny Regrade neighborhood is being increasingly stocked with the high-rises envisioned by the original regraders, and on the left, work-in-progress on the Municipal Market space, will blend the Public Market with the new waterfront, once it is revealed with the razing of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

We will begin this little slice of Market history – the pie-shaped part squeezed between Western Avenue, on the left, and Pike Place, on the right – by imagining a clutter of shacks and sheds that were homes for the poor squatters who built them, beginning in the depressing years that followed the economic panic of 1893. Soon after the three-block-long Pike Place was cut through that neighborhood of cribs and shanties, the Seattle City Council chose it as home for a public market. 

Another Webster and Stevens early record of the Markets North Arcade used Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.
Another Webster and Stevens early record of the Markets North Arcade used Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.  CLICK TWICE

That was in 1907, or roughly thirteen years before Webster and Stevens, the photographic studio that was long associated with The Times, recorded the here featured look north along the gracefully flexing line of the Market’s North Arcade.  Originally Pike Place was intended and graded not to sell produce, but rather to connect Western Avenue with First Avenue at an easier grade than the shorter, but much steeper, climb that survives on Virginia Street.

(Used Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry)
(Used Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry)

A growing battery of motivated motorists discovered this friendly grade and became so habituated to its advantages that there followed a nearly quarter-century encounter on Pike Place between produce and internal combustion. Traffic from the waterfront came this way as much to reach the new retail district beyond the Market as to make deliveries along Pike Place.  And the three-hundred yards of Pike Place was also used by barreling motorists to bypass the narrow business district and its increasingly congested avenues.  

( Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
( Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

Work on the North Arcade began beside Pike Place soon after the Market opened and was completed a few yards short of Virginia in 1911.  As is obvious in both our featured “now and then,” the width of this wedge-shaped block between Western Ave. and Pike Place narrows as it approaches Virginia Street, where those intending to head south must still negotiate a hairpin turn on to Western.

A quiet Pike Place ca. 1925, either early in the morning or after closing. (Courtesy, University of Washington, Special Collections)
A quiet Pike Place ca. 1925, either early in the morning or after closing. (Courtesy, University of Washington, Special Collections)

To the left, in its afternoon shadow, stands the turreted Seamen’s Home, which was built in 1910 and survived into the early 1970s.  At the photo’s center, or just beyond the far end of the North Arcade, the Armory marks the horizon with its roofline crenellations.  Dedicated in 1909, it was razed to some protests in 1968.  On the right, some of the signs above the shops on the east side of Pike Place reveal how this place, originally designed for the direct meeting of farmers and home-kitchen economists, accommodates what are apparently like-minded alliances, such as the Green Lake Farmers Association, the Washington Farmers Association, and the Family Shoe Market, “A Cut Price Shoe Store for Workers.”

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Beneath its roof the North Arcade’s nearly 600-foot-long run shelters the busker-serenaded day stalls filled by farmers, craftspeople and manifold merchants, who, regardless of their prices, collectively continue to make the Pike Place Market what during the Friends of the Market’s long struggle to save it, Seattle architect Fred Bassetti famously and lovingly described as “an honest place in a phony time.” 

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I’ll throw in a few shots from near the North Arcade roof.

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Anything to add, lads? Jean your extras from the roof are fresh and invigorating, and not because of the fresh produce beneath you.   Ron Edge has again attached a few past features from the week’s featured neighborhood, and we have paid attention to the Public Market in our now 34 years of covering the city.  It has been more than a half-century since I first visited the market, but it was for a party not produce.

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THEN: The Hotel York at the northwest corner of Pike Street and First Avenue supplied beds on the American Plan for travelers and rooms for traveling hucksters. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: In this April morning record of the 1975 “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in,” above the artists, restoration work has begun with the gutting of the Corner Market Building. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

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THEN: Friends of the Market president, architect Victor Steinbrueck, leads a cadre of Friends marching for Market preservation in front of the Seattle City Hall most likely on March 18, 1971. (Photo by Tom Brownell from the Post-Intelligencer collection at MOHAI)

THEN: Steel beams clutter a freshly regraded Second Avenue during the 1907 construction of the Moore Theatre. The view looks north toward Virginia Street.

THEN: An early-20th-century scene during the Second Avenue Regrade looks east into its intersection with Virginia Avenue. A home is being moved from harm's way, but the hotel on the hill behind it would not survive the regrade's spoiling. Courtesy of Ron Edge.

THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs. The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923. (Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: The 1974 fire at the Municipal Market Building on the west side of Western Avenue did not hasten the demise of the by then half-century old addition of the Pike Place Market. It had already been scheduled for demolition. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Looking south from Pine Street down the wide Second Avenue in 1911, then Seattle’s growing retail strip and parade promenade. (courtesy of Jim Westall)

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 I have, of course, through the t hirty-four yárs, so far, of fashioning these weekly features, I have, of course, made more than a few mistakes. The most of them dyslexic north-south, up-down, left-right, mistakes does not assuage the reader's confusion. But I have also made foru-or five "mea-culpa blunders, which I'll not now recount for readers. The feature is unique in its insensitivity proposed by a reader. I have printed the readers complaint side-by-side with the feature. Frankly, I have no idea! But was I still guilty of missing the KKK? You decide, if you can.
I have, of course, through the thirty-four years, so far, of fashioning these weekly features, made more than a few mistakes. That most have been of the dyslexic north-south, up-down, left-right, sort does not assuage the reader’s confusion. But I have also made four or more “mea-culpa” blunders, which, however,  I’ll not now recount for readers. This caption hangs from a feature that is unique with an insensitivity proposed by a reader. I have printed the readers complaint side-by-side with the feature. Frankly, I had no idea! But was I still guilty of missing the KKK? And if I had  not missed it, would it then be wrong to find the photo enchanting?  You decide, if you can.  [CLICK TWICE]

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ROSS CUNNINHAM’S insightful commentary on the public’s doubts about destroying landmarks for modern replacements appeared in The Times in 1963, the year in which the city’s first organized forces for preservation fought to protect the landmark Seattle Hotel in Pioneer Square.  While they lost that battle they clearly did not lose the war, and, we figure, they helped to sway this influential voice for the Times, Ross Cunningham.  Still, at least in this report, Cunnningham was mistaken about the fate of the Market.   Read it . . . and CLICK CLICK.

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At least two anglers were used to make the point. Perhaps there were many more, they took turns. However, upon reflection, the glass negatives typically used by the Webster and Stevens studio were both large and dear.
At least two anglers were used to make the public works political  point. Perhaps there were many more, they took turns. However, upon reflection, the glass negatives typically used by the Webster and Stevens studio were both large and dear.

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