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Origins

By the early 1960’s, the Market we know today had seen better days. Seattle’s mayor called it a “somnolent fire trap.” Downtown business leaders and property developers were eager to use federal urban renewal fund to “renew” the Market by demolishing it. City Councilmember Wing Luke wrote a newspaper op-ed, calling for citizen action to preserve the Market. Architect Victor Steinbrueck and attorney Robert Ashley answered the call.

In September 1964, they brought together sixty friends for a champagne breakfast to launch the effort in Lowell’s Café (still in the Market). Architect Fred Bassetti, unable to attend, wrote that the Market was “an honest place in a phony time.” With this beginning, the enthused advocates obtained a small office space behind Deluxe Bar-B-Q (still in the Market). With a telephone line and a typewriter, Elizabeth Tanner, volunteer executive secretary and manager, began a 30-year career of service to the cause.

Case for Preservation

Wing Luke’s Seattle Times editorial laid out arguments Friends of the Market would use to rally support for their cause. Instead of full scale demolition and rebuilding, the Market should be allowed to preserve and repair, which was allowed in the federal Urban Renewal law. The recent historical preservation of Pioneer Square was cited as a successful model for how the Market could be restored.

During the next seven years, Friends would pre