Let’s remember when Victor Steinbrueck led a protest against tearing down Pike Place Market, on this day in 1969 (March 12)
It seems unbelievable today, because Pike Place Market is one of the landmarks most synonymous with Seattle, but there was a time when some rich people wanted to tear it down, to make room for office buildings and parking lots.
PLANS TO DEMOLISH Pike Place Market had taunted its advocates for decades. In 1950 developers fought to raze it in favor of a 1,500-car parking garage. In 1963, they proposed a 3,000-vehicle carport. And in 1968: garage space enough for 4,000. That last proposal came with other radical changes, including 300,000 feet of office space and, according to some reports, a hockey arena.
Victor Steinbrueck, renowned architect and codesigner of the Space Needle, led a grassroots fight against the city and the developers, who eventually softened their proposal — though not by much. A newer plan titled, ominously, “Scheme 23” broke a proposed high-rise hotel into six smaller buildings (four would straddle the Viaduct), a car garage, and a newly refurbished plaza.
By 1971 the scheme (or variations of the scheme) had backing from Mayor Wes Uhlman, downtown retailers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Washington State Convention and Visitors Bureau, and both daily newspapers. Then the really bad news came: On May 15 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved $10.6 million to fund it. The Market as we know it was on its deathbed.
Steinbrueck was, fortunately, successful in saving the Market, and 50 years ago today, he led a protest rally at the Moore Theatre.
On March 12, 1969, architect-preservationist Victor Steinbrueck (1911–1985) leads a rally at the Moore Theater to protest the urban renewal plan that would demolish the Pike Place Market.
Three hundred people attended the event as a prelude to a march planned on March 19, 1969, to City Hall where the Seattle City Council was to hold hearings on Scheme 23, which would replace the existing market with new buildings and a replacement for the old market. Of this development project, Steinbrueck said, “The Big Lie, the quarter truth, is that the market is being saved.”
As we know it now, Pike Place Market was not demolished for office buildings and parking lots, but instead thrives downtown.
For further reading:
On March 12, 1969, architect-preservationist Victor Steinbrueck (1911-1985) leads a rally at the Moore Theater to…historylink.org