Celebrating 50 Years of the Friends of the Market

Pike Place Market would not be here today without a group of Market advocates called Friends of the Market. They helped save Pike Place Market 50 years ago and are still an active part in its preservation.

Read on to learn who the Friends of the Market are and how they saved Pike Place Market.


Who are the Friends of the Market?

The Friends of the Market was created in 1964 to protect and defend the Market from the “wrecking ball”. The inspirational architect Victor Steinbrueck and the Friends waged a hard-fought, community-wide campaign to “Keep the Market”.

Had the Friends not succeeded, Seattle would have lost a part of its Soul.

Saving Pike Place Market from the Wrecking Ball

In the 1950s and 60s, the Market was a target for urban renewal and extensive demolition. Some of the most prominent figures and Seattle organizations were in favor of demolishing and rebuilding it.

The first suggestion of change came in 1950 from an engineer named Harlan Edwards. He recommended creating a large-scale parking garage where Pike Place Market is today.  Although nothing came of this suggestion, it planted the idea into the minds of other Seattle developers and business owners.

In 1963 the business-driven Central Association of Seattle (later the Downtown Seattle Association) announced a proposal that would replace the Market with skyscrapers intended for offices and hotels, as well as, a 7-story parking garage.

A year later, the Friends of the Market organization was established to advocate for preserving and protecting the Market.

Seattle’s mayor, the city council, the two daily newspapers, and a majority of downtown Seattle’s large business owners all supported the plan to tear down the Market and replace it with a modern commercial complex.


Before it had widespread coverage...

City Councilmember Wing Luke wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times calling on citizens to unite to preserve Pike Place Market. Architect Victor Steinbrueck and attorney Robert Ashley rose to the occasion.

“Let us be resolved to keep this Market [so] that each generation may discover it anew.”
Victor Steinbrueck

In September of 1964, Victor and Robert gathered sixty friends at Lowell’s Restaurant to launch the effort to save the Market. The group established itself under the name ‘Friends of the Market’.

There, Elizabeth Tanner volunteered as their sole executive secretary and manager. Elizabeth ran the office, writing letters, answering the phone, organizing fundraisers, coordinating volunteers– everything down to assembling picket signs.

"The Market is a fragile kaleidoscope of merchants, mostly foreign-born and fiercely independent. It provides an income for dozens of small businessmen and women of a breed embodying all the virtues, now almost gone, that we believe made American great."
Elizabeth Tanner
Pike Place Market Initiative, 1971

During the next seven years, the Friends undertook a city-wide campaign to ‘Keep the Market’. They presented its case to the city through vigilant in-person campaigning, newspaper opinion pieces, posters, handbills, and street demonstrations. Friends and advocates also sold books, buttons, and bags to raise funds and for the cause.

Money was short when it came to campaigning and with both Seattle daily newspapers writing disparaging stories on the Market, the Friends had to get creative with attention-gaining events. In May of 1969, Victor led a march of hundreds, each carrying a single daffodil (a symbol of the Market) to city hall for Mayor Dorm Braman and the city council.

Later that year, the Friends gathered 53,000 signatures, accounting for more than 10% of Seattleites, ahead of a crucial city council vote.

The Friends’ exhaustive efforts in saving the Market were met with overwhelming support from locals who shared their enthusiasm for the Market and its meaning to the city.

On November 2, 1971, the Seattle community voted to save the Market. Initiative No. 1 established Pike Place Market as a 7-acre historic district and prohibited alterations, demolition, or construction without the approval of a 12-member commission. The Initiative was passed by a vote of 76,369 to 53,264; a 59% to 41%.

Through this initiative, the Pike Place Market Historical Commission and the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority were created. The odds had been against the Friends of the Market from the start, but the authentic passion and character of the Market proved to be stronger.

After the “Let’s Keep the Market” initiative passed, the Friends have continued to seek out opportunities to continue their support of the Market and protect it from whatever hurdles come next.

Thanks to the passion and hard work from the Friends of the Market, Pike Place Market is here today. A nine-acre ecosystem of generations of farmers, one-of-a-kind crafters, small businesses owners, social services, talented buskers, and diverse residents.