America’s oldest continually operated farmers’ market turns 100 this week. Seattle’s Pike Place Market opened on August 17, 1907, with the familiar-sounding goal of allowing consumers to “meet the producer.”

The market has a fascinating history, and a good way to explore it is through the personal memories posted to the
official website’s
centennial page.

Pamela Montgomery recalls her first trip to Pike Place, “with my family during a visit to the [1962] World’s Fair in Seattle.”

[T]he tulips and other cultivated flowers were huge and other worldly. Stands of gigantic fresh fish with attached heads and fins stretched out on fields of crushed ice. Fresh-from-the-garden garlic bulbs and other fresh vegetables were held high for us to view the dirt still clinging to their roots. The rosy, sun-kissed faces of the flower growers with their outstretched arms full of colorful, fragile bouquets reminded me of my grandmother. The textured cobblestones in the road were astonishingly beautiful and the smells of unusual foods wrapped their aromatic arms around me.

Donna from Monroe, Washington, strolled around the market soon after the birth of her first child. Her feet seemed unusually comfortable.

I looked down, and to my dismay, I was wearing my horrible, ratty old slippers with the nice outfit I had chosen for my trip out! No one had seemed to notice at all, or mentioned it to me, even though we had been there for several hours.

Someone did notice, however:

We also ran into the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, who purchased fresh ingredients for his television show. His gaze was transfixed with those slippers as we chatted about his favorite recipes. I was mortified.

Anne Foster was new to Seattle in 1991, when she visited Pike Place Market to browse produce:

[A]n elderly woman from behind the counter asked what I was looking for. I confessed that I was having trouble deciding what to serve dinner guests for dessert that evening. She told me to buy her beautiful strawberries, place them in individual dessert dishes, pour red wine over them and dust them with powdered sugar. Delicioso! I did, and they were. Next day, I saw her photo and obituary in the Seattle Times. I learned that my special dessert recipe had been a parting gift from Pasqualina Verdi—the Queen of the Market.

Not everyone has fond memories of the place. Former Seattle Times reporter Don Duncan writes about visiting the market during the Great Depression, lunching miserably on coffee and half a stale pastry.

This week, however, is for celebration, and all kinds of activities are in the works, including music, chef demos, free food, a re-creation of the opening day complete with horse-drawn wagons, and a giant birthday cake. Friday’s Market Party in Steinbrueck Park features some names familiar to lovers of Seattle rock, including Dave Dederer and Andrew McKeag from the Presidents of the United States of America, Mike Musberger from the Posies and the Fastbacks, and Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger. There’s even a rumor that Pearl Jam will give an unannounced performance.

If you’re planning to visit, Chowhounders have lots of great recommendations.

Here’s to the next 100 years of Pike Place Market. May it survive gentrification, competition, and ghosts.

See more articles