Amid a pandemic, many may have expected Pike Place Market to shut its doors and close down; it did not, and the ongoing health crisis was not the first time the Market has been threatened. As we celebrate 114 years, it’s hard to imagine Pike Place Market not being here, but 50 years ago, it was almost lost to urban-renewal-by-demolition supported by property developers and city officials.
In 1964, local citizens who recognized the unique and essential resources of the Market to the community established the Friends of the Market to educate and advocate for preserving the Market and protecting it from being destroyed. Led by the inspirational architect Victor Steinbrueck, the Friends waged a hard fought, community-wide campaign to “Keep the Market.” In 1969, despite the overwhelming citizen protests, the City Council voted to approve the urban renewal plan. The “Let’s Keep the Market” initiative was mounted in 1971. This initiative proposed a 7-acre historic district around the Market and the establishment of a commission to preserve and protect the buildings and integrity of the Market. Through the grassroots efforts by the Friends, Seattle voters chose to save the Market.
“Saving the Market was a seven-year long fight.” said Kate Krafft, current president of Friends of the Market. “It took years of persistent efforts to educate elected officials and the public. The Friends knew traditional urban renewal would mean losing a place essential to Seattle citizens and urban life. A passion for preserving the traditions and history of the public market was the driving force for the Market advocates. After repeated City Council failures, the Friends turned to a radical ballot measure that created a unique historic district and subsequently preserved an essential community composed of farmers, small specialty business owners and low-income and elderly residents. Thankfully, the Seattle community understood the choice and voted to save the Market.”
The anniversary of the passage of the “Let’s Keep the Market” initiative is a time to be intentional about our spending and giving to ensure the preservation of the Market for generations to come! As the Market celebrates this anniversary, it asks Seattleites and visitors from around the world to continue the work of keeping Pike Place Market strong!
The Market Today
The successful passage of the initiative preserved the largest continuously operating public market in the U.S. and Seattle’s largest incubator of small businesses and senior residents. The Market is comprised of hundreds of independent businesses, crafters, farmers, residents and a network of social services. This diverse community makes the Soul of Seattle. Pike Place Market is more than just a farmer’s market. Within the Market is a network of programs and services that benefit our local community including a foodbank, senior center, childcare and healthcare services.
Today, the culture of the Market and the work to preserve the historic district and foster a vibrant community is led by three organizations, the Friends of the Market, Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority and the Pike Place Market Foundation. This passion for preserving the Market has transitioned to protecting this community during the pandemic. With the work of these organizations, the Market proved its resilience again by staying open throughout the entire pandemic to serve the Seattle community and its residents.
“Through the tremendous work of the Friends of the Market and our local community, the Market is and always will be the ’Soul of Seattle,’” said Mary Bacarella, executive director of Pike Place Market. “The Market has become a place for small businesses to establish themselves and grow. Today, the PDA supports over 500 small businesses, 450 residents, six social services and hundreds of talented crafters, farmers and performers. The Market evolved into a world-renowned destination but is still today an essential spot for our locals to grocery shop, dine and rejuvenate. As we celebrate 50 years, it is not lost on us that the past 16 months we are experiencing a global threat to the Market. We are so thankful for the Friends of the Market efforts 50 years ago that gave us the blueprints to combat current and future challenges.”
The Pike Place Market is the true definition of resilience. As a community, the Market has endured many obstacles, threat of demolition, urban renewal, taxes, and now a pandemic, and it has endured. The Market demonstrates incredible strength and resiliency in responding to these needs and working as a community to always recover.
“More than incredible fish and flowers, Pike Place Market is a community of merchants, workers, residents and neighbors,” said Lillian Sherman, Executive Director of the Pike Place Market Foundation. “With senior housing above the Market’s storefronts and a network of social services woven throughout the historic district, the Market welcomes and supports a diverse community in the heart of downtown Seattle. The Market Foundation is proud to nurture this community – now and in the future – so that everyone within it has the opportunity to live their best life possible.”
Join the Celebration
Now 50 years later, we are celebrating the Market and the remarkable community that kept it alive and those who keep it strong today. The local community saved this Market, and the three organizations continue to celebrate that every day. To join in the celebration, the following programming will take place throughout the fall:
Timeline of Celebrations
- Aug. 17 – Pike Place Market Turns 114 Years Old, plus the debut of the Pike Place Market FREE downloadable Digital Book, Inside Pike Place Market: Building a model public market into the 21st century.
- Aug. 20 – The Market Foundation’s 25th Annual Fundraising event Sunset Supper at Pike Place Market
- Sept. 30 – Celebration Event for Friends of the Market Members and Friends
- Mid-October – Documentary “Pike Place Market: A Love Story” premieres on KOMO 4 TV
- Oct. 23 – Let’s Keep the Market STRONG 50th Celebration Event
- Oct. 23 – Special Documentary Viewing & Fundraising Events hosted by Pike Place Market Foundation
- Nov. 2 – Anniversary Date
*Subject to change in accordance to COVID regulations
For more information about the 50th anniversary, visit PikePlaceMarket.org/Keep-Market
Friends of the Market (Est.1964) – Friends of the Market was created in 1964 to protect and defend the Market from the wrecking ball. Against incredible odds, Friends of the Market worked for seven years to educate the public and advocate for preserving the Market before ultimately mounting this ground-breaking ballot measure. It was a true grassroots effort and accomplished a monumental feat. Fifty years later, Friends of the Market remains steadfast in its commitment to education and advocacy. https://www.friendsofthemarket.net/
Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority PDA (Est. 1973) – The nine-acre historic district is maintained and operated by the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), a nonprofit public corporation created by the City of Seattle in 1973. The PDA supports the Market’s remarkable community by increasing farm and food retailing opportunities, supporting small and marginal businesses, and providing services for low-income individuals. In addition, PDA helps protect the essence of the Market by preserving, rehabilitating and maintaining the buildings within the Market. http://pikeplacemarket.org/
Pike Place Market Foundation (Est. 1982) – Pike Place Market Foundation nurtures a thriving Market community so that everyone within it has the opportunity to live their best life possible. Established in 1982 to uplift the charter of Pike Place Market, the Market Foundation partners with, as well as operates and sustains, a network of programs and services to support residents, workers, families and neighbors of the Market. Over the past 39 years, the Market Foundation has granted $36 million to support more than 500 units of low-income housing, community health care, access to healthy food, high-quality preschool and community supports as well as funding essential capital needs within the historic district. The Market Foundation supports a healthy community model that allows a diverse community to live and thrive at Seattle’s historic Market. Learn more: pikeplacemarketfoundation.org.