Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Pike Place Market

It was 100 years ago today that farmers began congregating at Pike Place, just west of First Avenue in downtown Seattle, Washington, to sell their goods directly to the public. Their intention was to eliminate crooked middlemen from the local “commission houses,” who “would offer a high price [for farm goods] and then, when farmers delivered the produce the next day, pay a much lower price,” according to the excellent HistoryLink site. “Also, commission houses would take farmers’ produce on consignment and pay only for that which sold. Farmers accused them of refusing payment for a portion of the produce and claiming spoilage, when in fact they would sell it all and pocket the money. Further, some commission houses imported fruits and vegetables from California that undercut locally produced goods. And consumers complained that commission houses would discard surplus produce so that they could charge artificially high prices.”

Seattle’s Pike Place Market, then, began as a form of protest, but has survived (despite some hardships over the years) and thrived to become one of the city’s foremost attractions.

In celebration of the Market’s centennial, The Seattle Times offers plenty of photographs and recollections in a special section. Brief histories of the Market are available here and here. And Seattle-area thriller writer Robert Ferrigno (Prayers for the Assassin) commemorates this centennial in his own unique way, by offering a four-part novella in the Times titled “Double Strike.” (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.)

I’m using this occasion to begin a weeklong time-out from blogging. New Limbo posts are scheduled to begin appearing again during the week of August 26.

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