West side of Pike Place, looking east to Sanitary Market
Walk across Pine Street and head south through Post Alley until you get to Pike Place. Walk across the street and turn around to admire the Sanitary Market. Built in 1910 as the first purpose-built market building in the neighborhood, the popular story is that the Sanitary Market got its name for not allowing horses into the structure. The truth is a lot more mundane: Its “Sanitary” nature came down to concrete floors, concrete and glass counters and display cases and numerous water and drain connections that made it possible to keep the stalls and stands very clean. It also boasted a modern refrigeration plant in the basement and refrigerated showcases. This building opened to the public in January 1910 to great fanfare, with a reported 4,000 people in attendance.
The second floor above First Avenue was originally designed to be used as a demo kitchen with food prepared in full view of the public, samples included. The upper floor levels were accessible via ramps, much like in the Main Arcade across the street, and this building featured specially-designed wagons for use by tenants to load and unload their products, and scales for customers to personally weigh their purchases. Other amenities in the original Sanitary Market included free telephones, a drinking fountain, and public restrooms.
The completion of the Sanitary Market helped reinforce that the young Pike Place Market was here to stay, and within months of its construction a number of workingman’s hotels were constructed to the Northwest. By 1917 over 60 businesses were established in the Sanitary Market including four retail bakeries, seven creameries, three candy manufacturers, four fish stands, twelve produce stands, eight meat markets and five delicatessens. In the 1920s a handful of textile manufacturers moved into the upper level, and the Three Girls Bakery relocated to their present spot from the Corner Market.
On December 15, 1941 the original building was seriously damaged by fire. In 1942 it was partially rehabilitated and included a parking lot accessible from First Avenue on its top floor. As part of its renovation in 1981 the parking lot was removed, and two stories were added at the First Avenue elevation, and one floor with recessed balconies added at the Pike Place elevation. A central interior court and lightwell was also added.
Although the cause of the Sanitary Market’s fire was never determined, it occurred just over a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a time of deep distrust, and unsubstantiated rumors spread that the Japanese farmers in the Market had something to do with it. Although this was never proven, not long after Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the internment order. The impact of this forced incarceration on the character of the Market cannot be overstated. Indeed, it nearly destroyed the Market outright. In 1939, 515 farmer licenses were issued, and by 1943 only 196 were issued. Roughly 2/3s of the farmers had been unceremoniously shuffled out of this farmers market.
The 1974 Urban Renewal Plan adopted by the Seattle City Council called for the removal of the Sanitary Market, and this became another battleground for the Friends of the Market. Victor Steinbrueck and the Friends maintained that this again was one of the oldest and most historically important buildings in the neighborhood. Again, the Friends were successful and the Sanitary Market was adapted for residential use. The subsequent rehabilitation was completed by the PDA in 1981 using a design by Market champion Frank Bassetti, long-time admirer of the Market who was instrumental in Victor Steinbrueck’s own appreciation of the place.