Lower Pike Street to Post Alley, Pike Place Market, Seattle, January 2, 2014, Photo by John Brew (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Lower Pike Street leading to lower Post Alley, Seattle, 1972, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives (32530)
Pike Place Market with trucks and cars, 1920, Courtesy MOHAI (1983.10.1659.3)
Food vendors, Pike Place Market, Seattle, 1907-1940
Vendors and horse-drawn carts, Pike Place Market, Seattle, ca. 1908

Pike Place Market Architecture

If the walls could talk, the stories they would tell

by Nick Setten
Listen (English Only)

Originally an outdoor market on a recently board-walked side street, the Pike Place Market remained outdoors until 1907, when brothers Frank and John Goodwin used their wealth from the Klondike Gold Rush to build the first structures. Construction began because of one Seattle constant: the rain. The first building was a simple covered structure built in November 1907 that snaked along the bluff west of Pike Place. This originally served to bring farmers out of the rain, but by the 1920’s, as automobiles became popular, the Market expanded to allow more traffic by bringing stalls out of the streets and putting them under cover.

Pike Place Market bustled in the years leading up to World War I and boomed in the post-war 1920s. More buildings sprung up along Pike Place to accommodate demand, and farmers, butchers and ancillary businesses moved in. The neighborhood’s vernacular architecture remained approachable, making the Market an unstuffy place to shop for people from all ends of the economic spectrum.

Although growth slowed by the 1930’s, the Market’s importance as a gathering place remained paramount to Seattle’s citizens, and in the 1960s, when the Market was threatened with demolition, they created a “Keep the Market” campaign to save it. A rare example of urban renewal combining new construction and historic preservation, the Market was designated a National Historic District in 1971.

Our tour explores the nine acres that comprise the Market with an eye on its architecture. As you wind through the Market’s organically grown labyrinths, note the “humble and anonymous” buildings and human sense of scale that incubated a diverse and robust Market community. We begin at the nexus of Pike Street and Pike Place, just west of the Market Information booth.

Tour Stops


Leland Hotel, Main Arcade

Pike Place and Pike St

From our starting point just west of the information booth, note the pergola above you. It was added to the Market complex in 1917, removed by the mid-1970s, and reconstructed in the 1980’s. Just east of here, where the Information...


Fairley Building, high stalls

High stalls near the Athenian

This shed addition from 1907 is called the Fairley Building after one of the original partners in the Public Market and Department Store Company, which ran the market in its early days. Only the main market level is accessible from...


Flower Row, skybridge, LaSalle/Cliff House

Flower Row, top of south stair

Before the widespread use of automobiles, farmers across Puget Sound would come to market by means of the Mosquito Fleet, steamers that docked at the foot of Pike Street. It was a tricky logistical affair to bring their produce up...

In 1908, the city was abuzz with preparations for the following year’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. One major investment in the Market was construction of the city’s first modern “comfort station” along with a scenic plaza looking out over Elliot Bay. There...


Down Under

Level 4, top of stairs near Market Coins

Meanwhile, the Goodwins slowly created more space for farm stalls along the western slope leading down from Pike Place. In 1911, two additional floors were constructed below the Pike Place level of the Leland Hotel, and three floors were added...


North Arcade, Triangle Building

Pike Place and Pine St

We stop to rest here just in front of City Fish. The Market was created to help keep food costs down but by World War I the city was seeing a high degree of war profiteering. At one point, the...


Desimone Bridge, Stewart House

Pike Place and Stewart St

Across the road stands the Stewart House. Built in 1902, not long before the Leland Hotel was completed, the original Stewart Hotel was perched midway along Stewart between Pike Place and First Avenue. In 1903 an addition extending down Stewart...


Municipal Market, Marketfront

The MarketFront Pavilion

The Municipal Market once stood here. It featured a crenellated roofline and concrete stucco cladding that was mirrored by the original bridge. It was the last of the major additions the Goodwins would make to the Market. Featuring an area...


Friends of the Market, Armory

Victor Steinbrueck Park

Pike Place Market went through a period of steep decline beginning with the Japanese Internment in 1942. In that year, two-thirds of the Market farmers were uprooted and sent to incarceration camps. After World War II, the rise of the...


Pike & Virginia Building, Champion Building

Pike Place and Virginia St

Gazing south along Pike Place affords a moment to appreciate the scale of the historic Market buildings in context with the soaring glass and steel growing behind it them. Immediately east is the Pike & Virginia Building on the former...


Rehabilitation of the Livingston Hotel occurred in 1977 in conjunction with the building of the Baker Building, a mix of rehab and new construction called the Livingston-Baker Apartments. This project created 96 units of low-income housing. The corner inhabited by...

The Smith Block Building, Butterworth Building, and Alaska Trade Building were jointly rehabilitated in 1977 by Ralph Anderson & Partners. The Smith Building (the northernmost of the three) was constructed in 1906. Originally a barbers’ supply business and podiatrist office,...

You just passed the Inn at the Market. Designed in 1985 by Ibsen Nelson, this six-story hotel replaced an army-navy surplus store and the Pine Street Tavern. Its red brick cladding and incised concrete base are reminiscent of the historic...


Sanitary Market

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 building. The truth is, its “Sanitary” nature came down to concrete...


Corner Market

Northwest corner of 1st and Pike

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...

This building was constructed in 1900 as a commercial store, office building, and meeting hall for the Knights of Pythias, the first fraternal order to receive a charter under an act of the U.S. Congress. By 1916, Bartell’s Drug Store...

This tour made possible by generous support from

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

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