Seattle’s Pike Place Market first opened in 1907 with humble beginnings as a group of farmers’ carts at 1st and Pike. In the early 1900’s, thousands of farmers, including many Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos supplied produce to the city from far and wide. The public market at Pike Place was revolutionary in changing the previous system requiring farmers to sell their produce through a middleman who then charged shoppers greatly inflated prices. The market was so popular on its first day that farmers could not meet the demands of the crowds of gathered shoppers and quickly sold out. Frank Goodwin, a local developer, saw an opportunity in the popularity of the market and soon began building more permanent structures on the land surrounding the location. He oversaw the construction of the main arcade and more buildings such as the Sanitary Market, the Economy Market, the Corner Market and the Municipal Market Building rapidly followed as more took interest in being a part of the market.
Goodwin also began renting places on the market sidewalk to the middlemen who were originally responsible for raising the produce prices so high, causing great consternation with some of the local farmers. When Frank Goodwin’s nephew, Arthur Goodwin, bought out his uncle’s interests in the market in the 1920’s, the issue of middlemen continued to be a sore spot for many farmers. The Associated Farmers group decided to hire a lawyer, George Vanderveer, to try to cast the middlemen out of the market. When the matter was taken to court, the judge ruled that neither the farmers nor the middlemen could legally place their stalls on public sidewalks. The start of the Great Depression in 1929 drew focus away from the issue as parties on both sides faced new concerns. The depression also sapped much of Arthur Goodwin’s finances and he eventually lost control of the market to Giuseppe (Joe) Desimone. Desimone was a farmer who became prosperous selling his produce at the market and investing in other business ventures. By 1941, he had taken over all of Arthur Goodwin’s market property.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, sending the country into war and changing the fabric of Pike Place Market. All the Japanese along the west coast, including the Japanese farmers who made up a large part of the market were forced to leave their homes and businesses and relocate to internment camps where they were imprisoned for the duration of the war. This left many of the market stalls empty and abandoned. In 1946 Joe Desimone passed away, leaving his Pike Place Market holdings to his son, Richard Desimone, who took control of the market. In the years of postwar prosperity, developers again began turning their eye to Pike Place Market, hoping to replace it with newer buildings and demolish many of its historic landmarks. When Seattle was granted federal funds for urban renewal in the 1960s, a large part of the conversation centered around redeveloping Pike Place Market which was not as prosperous as it had once been and was in need of repairs. These plans including introducing new apartment buildings and hotels to the area and many feared that this would damage the diverse market community by driving away long time farmers and residents away with higher prices and increased rents.
To fight these plans and preserve the historic character of the market, a group of Seattle citizens banded together to form the Friends of the Market in 1964. The group was led by Victor Steinbrueck, a local Seattle architect. After years of grassroots campaigning, the Friends galvanized Seattle voters to protect the Market with the successful passage of the Market Initiative in 1971. The initiative created a seven acre city historic district protecting the market from future urban renewal plans. New plans were then drafted to help rehabilitate the Pike Place Market area and ensure it would be able to stand the test of time while still preserving the historic nature of the district. Continued efforts and activism throughout the following decades helped to ensure that the market would be safely protected and preserved for the years to come.
Suzanne Hittman Collection of the Pike Place Market:
The Suzanne Hittman Collection of the Pike Place Market is a valuable resource for researchers and historians seeking information about the principle figures behind Pike Place Market and its business history. As a child, Suzanne lived in south Seattle with her grandparents, Giuseppe (Joe) and Assunta Desimone. Her grandfather, Joe Desimone, began as a farmer selling his produce at the market and grew to become a prominent businessman, eventually taking control of the Pike Place Market properties from Arthur Goodwin in 1941. Suzanne's uncle, Richard Desimone, was the last owner of Pike Place Public Markets, Inc. This collection includes correspondence, business ledgers, receipts, plans, rental agreements and other significant documents produced by Pike Place Market farmers and vendors, Frank Goodwin, Arthur E. Goodwin, Giuseppe (Joe) Desimone, Richard L. Desimone, The Pike Place Public Markets, Inc., and the Fulton Petroleum Corporation. The bulk of the digitized materials offer insight into the daily mechanisms of business at Pike Place Market and life in Seattle in the 1920's and 1930's. Only the materials relating to Pike Place Market have been digitized at this time.
Peter Steinbrueck Pike Place Market Collection:
The Peter Steinbrueck Pike Place Market Collection includes architectural plans, posters, newspaper articles and ephemera related to the Market Initiative and other efforts undertaken by the Friends of the Market to protect Pike Place Market and its unique character and history.The Friends of the Market formed in 1964 in response to growing threats to the future of Pike Place Market. Developers saw the market as the perfect location to use federal urban renewal funds recently acquired by the City of Seattle. They intended to transform the landscape surrounding the Pike Place with new apartment buildings, hotels and other businesses. The Friends, led by Victor Steinbrueck, were worried that such a plan would destroy the historic character of the market and drive away the farmers, vendors and residents who were an intrinsic part of the community because of increased prices and rents. To prevent this from happening, they led a grassroots campaign to pass the Market Initiative, a plan which created a seven acre historical district surrounding the market and created a historical commission to oversee its governance. Despite opposition from many, the Market Initiative successfully passed in 1971 with 59 percent of the vote, protecting the market for future generations.
Werner Lenggenhager Photograph Collection:
Werner Lenggenhager (1899-1988) was a Swiss immigrant, a Boeing employee, and a hobby photographer who made it his life's work to create a photographic record of Seattle's architecture, monuments, and scenery. Over the course of his life, Lenggenhager gave nearly 30,000 prints of his photographs to The Seattle Public Library. The Library encouraged him in his photographic efforts, at times paying him for his contributions, and often sending letters of support to locations he was interested in photographing. However, Lenggenhager undertook the majority of his photography at his own personal expense. Many of his photographs include scenes of musicians, farmers, and shoppers at Pike Place Market. Smaller collections of Lenggenhager's photographs are also held by the Washington State Archives, the University of Washington Libraries, the Museum of History and Industry, and other institutions. He died in 1988, and for many years The Seattle Public Library's prints were held and preserved by the Library but not made readily accessible. In 2010, his heirs generously donated the copyright of these photos to The Seattle Public Library, making it possible for the Library to digitize and display the photos online. As Lenggenhager explained to the Seattle Times in 1955, "Some persons contribute time to charitable causes. My pictures are my small contribution to the city."