The History of Pike Place Market

What happens when the middlemen start price gouging at the local produce market? Pike Place Market is what happens. In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, farmers would bring their fresh produce, dairy products, eggs, and other farm-grown goods into the city by horse-drawn wagons—sell them to wholesalers—and the wholesalers would sell them to the people of Seattle at a place called The Lots around 6th & King in the heart of the International District.

In 1907, the price gouging became so bad that citizens & Seattle City Councilman Thomas Revelle stepped in and created a plan to start a public market where the producers could sell directly to consumers. On August 17th, 1907, the public market at Pike Place opened—and stories are told of vendors selling out within minutes. Within the first week of the market’s existence, it had exploded to over 70 wagons and became the busiest corner in the city.

In the 107 years since then, the market has gone through many transformations, owners, historical periods, and vendors—but two things remain true: It is still one of the busiest areas of the city, and it is still an outstanding place to purchase the finest produce, fish, meats, flowers, artisanal crafts, clothes & more.

The early days of the market were filled with rapid growth, construction, rearranging, and shifting vendors. Later in 1907, the Main Arcade building was added by Frank Goodwin—and funded by his Klondike Gold wealth. It took four years of operation for the market to double its stall count—and added a few City of Seattle full-time jobs to support the needs of the continually growing market. During the Great Depression, the market provided the lowest-cost food to locals—and continued to be a booming business hub in a time of global economic downturn.

With the increased popularity of motor vehicles, and eventually the rising popularity of suburban supermarkets, Pike Place Market began to decline in popularity and profitability—and was even scheduled for demolition in the 1960’s. On November 2, 1971, Seattle voted against the demolition, turning the market into a protected historic district.

In 2011, went through a massive renovation process—preserving the historic qualities & charm—but bringing it up to current safety standards. Today, if you walk down to the market, you’ll be surrounded by the same community-oriented, fresh-focused vendors bringing the City of Seattle the finest product available.

Featured photo from LegendsofAmerica.com.

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