(click to enlarge photos)
The recently formed Pike Place Market Historical Society was born with what I suspect is an exclusive irony attached to it. While it is the youngest of enthused locals focused on Seattle heritage, it may also be the most mature. The accumulated knowledge of its membership is both stunning and accessible. The charms of the Market have also nurtured its own historians. What follows comes in part from the PPMHS and its members. Bless it and them. (Please visit the blog listed at the bottom to learn more about the Society and what it knows about this covered curve.)
Had he lived long enough, I am confident that Frank Shaw, the photographer the of today’s featured photo, would have become a member of the Society. Shaw’s attraction to the Market is professed in the scores of large-sized negatives and transparencies he recorded there. The about-to-retire Boeing employee began visiting the Market with his Hasselblad in the early 1960s, just in time to record those politically important years when the well-funded forces campaigning for urban renewal wrestled with the citizen-volunteers fighting for the Market’s repairs and preservation.
On its cardboard border, Shaw dated this colored portrait of the only curve on Post Alley May 1, 1966. It was a Sunday morning a mere half-century ago. Market explorers will know that this is where Post Alley, heading for the Market, turns for its one short block climb to the intersection of First Avenue and Pike Place. Of
the many entrances into the Market, I expect this is the one least used, but also the most charming. It is also the most gate-like and therefore potentially ceremonial for staging events like the Tiny Freeman presided Soap Box Derbies on Post Alley in the early 1970s. Shaw’s shabby alley surely prefigures the internationally known “Gum Wall,” here with its profane patina of donated wads.
Two feature films (and perhaps several smaller ones) have used the curve for art: “Mad Love” (1995), in which the film’s leads share their first date at a punk show here in the alley, and the better known “Cinderella Liberty” (1973), where the curve and its entrance to Seattle’s first municipal rest room (1908) were converted into a burlesque theatre for the James Caan vehicle. It was also just off this curve that Seattle’s well loved Empty Space Theatre got its start in 1970. It was followed by Stage One, where, we must note, in 1972 the tall but mere 15-year-old Jean Sherrard, this feature’s “now” photographer, played the part of Laertes, the brother of Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Jean notes, “There were rarely more people in the audience than in the cast.”
I’ll toss in a couple gum wall shots for those who haven’t visited: Anything to add guys?
Surely Jean and thanks for gum blog sticking below, Jean. Ron Edge has also added a few relevant neighborhood features below the below and at the bottom.