the rescue of 'pike place market '

Chris Mattock (left) and friend, Joe Garret, standing in front of their Seattle student home, ‘The Excellent House’. (1971)

One of my favourite things about writing ‘global peasant’ is that my entries are just the beginning. Usually, they organically lead me to discover several other stories and, sometimes, one of my readers has a related tale of their own to share. After Vancouver architect Chris Mattock read the entry about my visit to Pike Place Market, he shared with me his own story about how the market had been saved. At the time, he was a student of architecture (and also aspiring to be a bluegrass musician), studying in Seattle and living with friends in the ‘Excellent House’. In Chris' words:

“The Pike Place Market, which stands today as a major Seattle landmark and tourist attraction, would probably not exist if not for the dedicated commitment of a group of activists during the late 60’s and early 70’s. This group included Victor Steinbrueck , who was an architect and one of my professors at the University Of Washington School Of Architecture. In 1963 a proposal was put foreword to tear down the market and replace it with ‘Pike Plaza’. This project would have included a hotel, apartment building, office buildings, a hockey arena and parking garage. The proposal was supported by the mayor, many on city council and a number of market property owners. However, there was significant community opposition. Steinbrueck, along with others on the board of ‘Friends of the Market’ and some of his students managed to raise public awareness. As the result of demonstrations, talks and public information displays, a public initiative was passed in November of 1971 that created a historic preservation zone and put the market in public hands. Since then, the Pike place Market buildings have been restored and renovated based on the original drawings, using historically correct materials.”

Of course the market is an important historical landmark and tourist attraction, but it is also an incredibly vibrant place for its locals, connecting the public with farmers, artisans, collectors, musicians, bars, restaurants and so much more. The Pike Place Market stands today as a bustling, lively and inspiring place to explore (and eat).

Victor Steinbrueck as a young man.

One of several books by Victor Steinbrueck.

In 1970 Steinbrueck was instrumental in the creation of another Seattle historic district, Pioneer Square. He was perhaps Seattle's best-known advocate of historic preservation. While working as a consultant to John Graham & Company, he also played a key role in the design work of the Space Needle. Built in 1962 and standing at a height of 605', at that time it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. He died in 1985 at the age of 74. That same year, Market Park was renamed Victor Steinbrueck Park. It stands just northwest of Pike Place Market.

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