Local’s Guide to the Pike Place Market: 104 Years of Fortitude

How the Market survived war, riots, and one reckless cab driver.

By Jessica Voelker May 20, 2011

August 17, 1907 Fed up with price-gouging middlemen, eight farmers show up to hawk their wares at the newly inaugurated outdoor market at Pike Place, just west of First Avenue. They sell out by midmorning.
November 30, 1907 The Market moves (partly) indoors when real-estate developer Frank Goodwin opens the Arcade. There are 76 produce stalls inside.
1922 By now, all of the buildings that contain the present-day Market have been built. The Goodwin family rents some stalls—called “high stalls” because they are taller—to wholesalers, which sparks protest among the farmers.
1927 The neon “Public Market” sign and clock are installed, one of the West Coast’s earliest examples of outdoor neon.
December 14, 1941 A week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a three-alarm fire blazes through the Market causing $100,000 worth of damage. No one dies, but some Seattleites blame the Japanese. The cause of the fire is never determined.
February 19, 1942 Executive Order 9066 is passed, leading to the internment of Japanese Americans up and down the West Coast. This greatly impacts the Market as more than two-thirds of its vendors are of Japanese descent.
March 12, 1969 Victor Steinbrueck leads a march to protest plans to demolish the Market. See: The Day the Market Almost Died (Again)
March 13, 1970 The Market is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
April 1971 Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Zev Siegl each pony up $1,350 to open a coffee-bean shop in the Market called Starbucks. Beans came from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Berkeley.
November 2, 1971 Seattle votes in Initiative 1, establishing a Historic Preservation Zone to protect the Market and ending a long controversy surrounding its fate.
August 1, 1983 The rules established in the Hildt Agreement go into effect. Brokered by Seattle City Council member Michael Hildt, the agreement represented a truce of sorts between the farmers and merchants at the Market.
June 8, 1985 The date inscribed on the floor tile recognizing the Heaven’s Gate cult, which, before completing its famous mass suicide, paid $35 to be among the 45,000 donors who contributed to a capital campaign that raised $1.6 million.
1985 Steinbrueck Park is named in honor of Victor Steinbrueck.
October 15, 1991 New York private-­investment firm Urban Group accepts a cash buyout for titles it holds on the 11 buildings that comprise Pike Place Market.
June 25, 1993 Sleepless in Seattle is released; America watches as Rob Reiner and Tom Hanks discuss the single life over lunch at Market diner Lowell’s. Countless tourists have since retraced their steps.
March 8, 1994 Soundgarden releases “Spoonman,” a song named for Market busker Artis the Spoonman.
June 10, 1998 MTV’s The Real World: Seattle debuts. Its opening sequence ends with one cast member tossing a fish to another in homage to the famous fish-throwing tradition at Pike Place Fish Market.
February 1999 In the previous year, tensions between farmers and merchants reignite after the Preservation and Development Authority votes to suspend the Hildt Agreement. Eventually, city council member Nick Licata proposes an amended version, called the Licata-Hildt Agreement, effectively extending the Hildt Agreement 10 years.
December 2, 1999 Around 4pm, about a thousand World Trade Organization protestors flood Steinbrueck Park after police fire tear gas at their sit-in at a nearby intersection.
Summer 2001 Market street performers organize to form the Buskers’ Guild.
June–July 2009 PETA makes national headlines decrying the fish throwers. When a veterinarians’ convention invites mongers to do a demo at Seattle’s convention center, several protestors dress up as fish and lie down on the sidewalk outside.
March 2010 Market landmark Beecher’s Handmade Cheese announces it will open a second shop…in New York City.
February 5, 2011 A taxicab driver smacks into ­Rachel, the 550-pound bronze piggy bank that stands in front of the fish throwers. She eventually recovers.
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