Northwest corner of 1st and Pike
Head into the Sanitary Market just north of Jack’s Fish Spot and take a right past Nancy Nipples’ Pike Place Creamery just in front of the stairwell that was added in 1981. Head south through the structure and back out to the street. When you arrive at the side of the Information Booth, turn around to admire the Corner Market.
The Corner Market is the second of two purpose-built market buildings in the neighborhood, the other being the Sanitary Market which we have just seen. Constructed in 1912 and designed by Harlan Thomas of Thomas & Granger architects, who also designed the Sorrento Hotel and the original Harborview Hospital, it is a fine example of Mediterranean Revival style within a utilitarian framework. This building replaced the Hotel York, torn down in 1904 due to rapid settling of the foundation caused by the digging of the Great Northern Railway tunnel, 60 feet below your feet. Constructed at a cost of over $50,000 with Cyrus F. Clapp, a real estate investor who, like Frank Goodwin, saw the opportunities presented by the fledgling Pike Place Market. At the time, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described it as the “most substantial market building yet erected in Seattle.”
Judging by the aesthetics we’ve seen in the Goodwin-constructed Market buildings, this wasn’t a very high bar to cross. Of particular note were the five cold-storage rooms included in its design. Flower boxes located at the edge of the marquees along the second floor window sills were added by 1914. Five two-story billboards were installed in 1914 and removed in the 1930s. Following in the vein of the aesthetic found throughout the rest of the Market buildings, it is just the brick inlay and large bay windows that create interest in this otherwise-utilitarian structure.
When it opened, all of the shops along the First Avenue featured open fronts, although most of them have been enclosed by traditional wooden storefronts. The upper floors, like the Sanitary Market and the Main Arcade, were accessed via ramping system. The entry and stairwell on Pike Street were added in the 1975 rehabilitation.
The original tenants on the uppermost floor was the Pacific Poultry Company, and the original location of the Three Girls Bakery was on the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street, not to mention the city’s first automatic donut machine. By 1917, the building housed a number of food specialty businesses, including butter, eggs and cheese outlets, a coffee, tea and spice merchant, three delicatessens, a florist, four meat markets and six produce stands. In 1929, it became home to Seattle’s first homegrown grocery store chain, Ebe’s Grocery. Originally a food specialty stall in 1910, it Ebe’s quickly expanded into a wholesale and retail outlet. Ebe’s Grocery Outlet officially opened in 1927 and expanded into a 23-outlet chain around the city. In 1935 it became the Tradewell Grocery, and continued to operate in the Market until 1938. Tradewell was a prominent Northwest supermarket chain until the mid-80’s.
The property remained in private hands until it was acquired by the PDA in the 1970s. The Market had gone through a steep decline from the 1940’s – 1960’s, and by 1974 only 20% of the Corner Market’s space was in active use. This would be the first major rehabilitation project undertaken by the PDA, completed in December 1975 by Karlis Rekevics, working under the direction of Frank Bassetti. This project was undertaken by the city to set a model for the entire urban renewal project, and once it was complete ownership was transferred to the PDA. During this renovation, the building was walled off with large plywood panels. Artistically-minded community members staged a paint-in to beautify the work in progress, and after rehabilitation 12 out of the building’s 14 tenants at the time returned.