It’s really the heart of downtown, the singular point of focus of the humanity that is represented by Seattle. And it’s not just because you can get fish and flowers, but it’s the fact that somebody had the vision to create it, leave it behind, and people continue to breathe life into it.

-John Pierce, former Market Foundation Board President

The Pike Place Market Foundation was founded in 1982 with the original mission to “preserve and enhance the traditions and diversity of the Pike Place Market community.” Not only do we support a network of social services in the Market, but we also engage in vital heritage and preservation efforts to share our neighborhood’s history and maintain the historic district. 

Many Market visitors may not realize just how many resources it takes to maintain one of the country’s oldest continually operating farmer’s markets, especially since much of the infrastructure was built in the early 1900s. “We have very old, historic buildings that are so much more expensive to operate and maintain… and yet we charge lower rents…” explained Jackson Schmidt, former co-President of the Foundation and former chair of the PDA Council. “It’s just a fact of the Market’s lifecycle, every 15 to 30 years will require major renovations.”  

To “keep the Market” we know and love requires painstaking attention, consistent funding, and constant vigilance. 

Through our partnerships with the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), the Historical Commission, Friends of the Market, and our community, the Market Foundation has directly contributed $10.5 million to heritage and preservation, and helped leverage more than $110 million in additional taxpayer funding. Here is a brief look at some of our projects over the past 40 years: 

Reflooring the arcade

By the time Seattle had voted to save Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball in 1971, the main arcade had fallen into major disrepair. In partnership with the Pike Place Market PDA, the Market Foundation embarked on our first capital campaign to resurface the Market’s floor. The Foundation raised $1.2 million for the repair costs and produced nearly 55,000 tiles to honor the donors who pitched in to support the efforts. 

Due to 40 years of wear and tear in one of the most successful Markets in the world, some of the tiles have deteriorated over the decades and have been replaced with a safer, more-durable floor surface. Whether your tile is still in its original spot or has since been given new life, we thank the tens of thousands of donors who pitched in to support and “pave the way” for four decades of countless deliveries, carts, and the 15 million people who tread the Market’s floor each year! 

This little piggy went to Market...

the bronze pig

Though visitors may not yet be aware of the Market Foundation, mention “the Pike Place Market pig” and their eyes immediately light up with recognition.  

In August 1986, the Foundation installed a bronze, life-sized piggy bank sculpted by artist Georgia Gerber: Rachel the Piggy Bank. This bronze sculpture was modeled after Rachel, a real 750-pound prize-winning pig at the Whidbey Island County Fair. 

 “The Market Foundation needed an image that was recognizable, you know, a symbol,” says Shirley Collins, founder of  Sur La Table and the board member who developed the idea for Rachel. “It was such an obvious choice to use a pig for the Market, and a piggy bank.” Little did she and Foundation staff know that Rachel would become such an iconic fixture recognized worldwide: representing the Foundation, the Market, and Seattle itself. 


Sculptor Georgia Gerber with Billie

In 2011, Rachel was joined by her cousin, a second bronze piggy bank named Billie, who now lives on the MarketFront Pavillion expansion. As two of the most famous symbols of Pike Place Market, Rachel and Billie delight millions of Market visitors every year: reflecting the character and charm we have come to love from the historic district.  They serve as landmark, model, mascot and inspiration, helping raise $20,000 a year for the Market community.  

"Caring for the Market"

painting at the market

After World War II when Japanese American farmers were forcibly removed from the Market and incarcerated in internment camps, the number of customers began plummeting to an all-time low. This was further exacerbated by the postwar rise of supermarkets, urban flight, and industrialization of farmland, until the Market was eventually declared an Urban Renewal area destined for demolition in the 1960s. Victor Steinbrueck and the Friends of the Market knew that the seemingly neglected Market was “an honest place in a phony time,” according to architect Frank Bassetti. “It needed the hammer and paintbrush, not the black ball of destruction.” Citizen-led advocacy groups, spearheaded by the Friends of the Market and the Alliance for a Living Market, led a 7-year battle culminating in a 1971 vote to “keep the Market”, as Seattle gave a resounding 59% margin “yes” to heralding Pike Place Market as “the Soul of the City.”

As a result, a seven-acre historic district was established, and the Market Historical Commission was tasked with preserving the Market’s physical and social character. Maintaining these iconic historic buildings that preservationists fought to save requires careful expertise, and considerable funding for repairs every 15 to 30 years.

In 1993, the Market Foundation combined forces with the PDA to raise money for this next round of urgent exterior and interior repair needs. This Care for the Market campaign helped leverage peoples love for Pike Place Market and converted it into public and private funds for repairing the early 20thcentury facades and renovating the agency facilities. In total, the Market Foundation raised $3.2 million for historic repairs and social service renovations. 

Restoring the Market's iconic neon signs

In the early 1990s, the Market Foundation also embarked on a project to restore one of Pike Place Market’s most famous symbols: the “Public Market Center” sign that greets visitors at the Market’s front door on Pike Street. The original sign was installed in 1937, making it likely the oldest neon sign in Seattle. To address the heavy rusting and structure deterioration, the Market Foundation partnered with the PDA and Friends of the Market to secure funding for a major rehabilitation project. After the new letters were constructed, the old neon letters were auctioned off, and some fortunate Market fans still own these famous former letters. 

The Market Foundation has also partnered with the PDA and Friends of the Market to restore the “Public Market” neon sign on the North Arcade at the intersection of Pike and Pine Street. In 2017, we were awarded a 4Culture Landmarks Capital grant to support the rehabilitation of this iconic Market fixture. Both neon signs contribute significantly to the historic and architectural character of the historic district, and we were thrilled to help ensure that they can continue to welcome visitors well into the future. 

Investing in heritage programs

Pike Place Market is a rich and diverse place. Woven throughout its 115 years are important stories about the people who made and continue to make this place a vibrant community. As a supporter of this community, the Foundation has long engaged in programs to help preserve the Markets unique history and honor those who solidified this neighborhood as the “soul of Seattle” 

In 1999 the Market Foundation opened the Market Heritage Center – a museum featuring interactive exhibits and a series of videos featuring the contributions of various communities to the Market. This site would later become the site of Pike Market Preschool and Childcare’s playground, creating a dynamic outdoor space for the Market’s youngest community members to play and explore. 

We are excited to embark on a new chapter in our heritage efforts for the 21st century: a project to update the current heritage displays around the Market. Existing interpretive historical signs and commemorative plaques are outdated and in disrepair and need to be re-imagined to communicate with shoppers in a bustling Market place effectively. In partnership with the Pike Place Market PDA and Friends of the Market, The Market Foundation is helping to assess the current heritage displays and guide design development of new displays throughout the Market. Keep an eye out for this new dynamic signage to pop up in the neighborhood beginning in 2024. Thanks to 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax Fund for providing financial sponsorship for this project. 

The Foundation also managed and operated a heritage tour program from 2000 to 2012, presenting visitors with a blend of information about the history and social services. We are thrilled to be currently developing a new tour program to reflect the present-day Market community and engage those looking to get involved. Our new social impact tours will be launched later this year, and give supporters an opportunity to connect with our mission. 

"Pigs on Parade": a Market collab-boar-ation

In the early 2000s as major cities across the country were launching artistic animal displays, the Market Foundation dreamed of doing something similar based on our mascot: Rachel the Piggy Bank. Fiberglass model pigs were created, and local artists submitted their concepts for wildly sty-lish and inventive designs to decorate each porcine model. That summer, 170 custom-designed pigs hogged the sidewalks of Seattle, wowed crowds in a Grand Parade, and were later auctioned off with proceeds supporting the Market community. This campaign was a smashing success, reminding locals and visitors of our neighborhood and proving just how much Seattleites love these pigs! Read the full story about the inaugural Pigs on Parade here. 

Nurturing art in Pike Place Market

As a haven for artists and crafters, our historic district is naturally home to a treasure trove of sculpture, murals, functional art, and mixed media pieces. The Market Foundation is proud to have helped nurture this artwork that adds to the culture and character by commissioning and supporting a number of public art projects over the years. You can see some of these pieces today, including the Hill Climb Seats on Stewart Street, the community collaboration Western Tapestry on the Western Avenue wall, Northwest Microcosm on the MarketFront plaza steps, and many more. 

Market community poses in from of the "Western Tapestry" artwork

"Support our Market": Seattle votes YES

support our market

By 2003, Pike Place Market was seeing 10 million visitors a year and desperately needed core infrastructure system renovations. “We had leaking plumbing, leaking pipes,” remembers Carol Binder, Executive Director of the PDA at the time. “A lot of those things were never done in the previous renovations because they were doing the facade and the exteriors of the building. But a lot of the fundamental infrastructure was almost 100 years old.”  

The historic district needed new elevators and restrooms, seismic and electrical upgrades, heating and ventilation improvements, and a rebuilt hill climb: around $70 million for the renovations. This project was so large that it went beyond the scope of Foundation fundraising, and warranted a public funding vehicle like a levy. 

“The Public Development Authority does not have any taxing authority,” explains Carol. “So we could not vote to raise levies on our own, and the city initially wasn’t going to put it on the ballot, as they had their own capital needs. Eventually, we were able to convince the city that the Market was a vital piece of the downtown and the public would support it. The Market Foundation would be allowed to fundraise for a levy campaign, and they were willing to undertake this because it was going to benefit everyone. We worked very collaboratively in all aspects of that.” 

In partnership with the PDA, the Market Foundation began working behind the scenes to fundraise and introduce a levy proposal for the 2008 Seattle election. The Foundation spawned “Citizens for Pike Place Market” to run the campaign, and board members raised $400,000 for that effort.  

white pig

For the Market’s 100th Anniversary in 2007, the Foundation and PDA partnered together to throw a smashing centennial celebration spanning an entire summer of events (including a second Pigs on Parade campaign) to educate locals and renew their love for the Market. “That centennial celebration was setting the stage for a levy vote the next year…” said Carol. “It wasn’t just a party at the Market, we really needed to get people to understand the layers of what was underneath all of this so that they would be more compelled to preserve it going into the future.” 

The levy vote hit the ballots in November 2008, just as the stock market plummeted. Nevertheless, the people of Seattle passed the monumental levy by a 62% margin, securing $73 million dollars for the Market’s infrastructure repairs. “People of Seattle love their Market, and that’s why they voted yes in the face of economic disaster,” said Jackson Schmidt, Former Board Co-President. 

A new expansion for the historic district

There’s not much room to grow within the boundaries of this sanctified historical district, but in 2014, a new opportunity rose out of the old surface-level parking lot situated across Western Avenue. Thus the dream of the “MarketFront” was born: a unique collection of mixed-use Market spaces providing expanded opportunities for local entrepreneurs, farmers, civic space, public art, social service, and housing for seniors. 

Later that year, the Market Foundation launched the “Pike Up!” campaign to raise over $9 million for the MarketFront expansion. “The Market community was reflected in the project, with the goal that everyone, especially those living and working in the Market, could afford to contribute and see themselves in the project,” said Patricia Gray, Director of Philanthropy and Community Relations at the Foundation.  

The story of the MarketFront continues today, as we partner with Friends of the Waterfront and the Seattle Aquarium in anticipation of the dynamic Overlook Walk which will connect Pike Place Market to the upcoming Waterfront Park and Ocean Pavilion. The MarketFront is so much more than just an addition to the Market,” says Elizabeth Coppinger, former Foundation Board President. “It’s a gift to Seattle, a place where the community can gather. I think it was this really pivotal transition piece for the city, moving into the next generation of what it’s going to be and envision.” 

By developing the final piece of land in the Market and increasing accessibility to the greater Seattle waterfront, the Market Foundation helps complete an important chapter in the Market’s past and begin a new one for future generations. 

As stewards of this community, we believe Pike Place Market truly is “the soul of our city” and a place worth fighting for. We are grateful for the opportunity to help maintain the culture and character of the Market over the past four decades, and we commit to working with our partners to protect, uphold, and preserve it for generations to come.  

“I’ve always thought that’s one of the most important roles the Foundation has,” reflected Jackson Schmidt. “It’s reminding people that they have this Market only because the people of Seattle are paying attention and doing what they need to do to save it, to preserve it. You can’t just take it for granted.” 

As we hit the incredible milestone of 40 years, we want to thank our partners, community members, staff, board, donors, and volunteers for being with us every step of the way. Your support helps nurture the health of our community and keep the Market strong now and for the next 40 years to come!

 It is an honor to be celebrating 40 years in this community!

Celebrate the Market Foundation’s impact of $40 million invested over 40 years into the Market community!

We need your help to keep the Market strong now and for the next 40 years to come. Give today and join us in supporting a thriving Market where everyone can live their best life possible!

Contribute Today


Nurture the Next Chapter: Sustaining Pike Place Market for Future Generations

We’re thrilled to announce The Market Community Fund: a unique opportunity to transform individual giving into lasting, measurable change — connecting your philanthropic goals to your love for the Market. A gift today, or bequest from your Will or Trust in the future, provides a lasting legacy to the health and sustainability of the Market community.



Anniversary Stories: Investments in Housing

In collaboration with our partners, we have helped to retain affordable housing in and around the district – supporting the construction and rehabilitation of units in many residential buildings in the Market.

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Anniversary Stories: Investments in Social Services

For 40 years, the Pike Place Market Foundation has supported a downtown community of residents and workers, and the underlying network of social services designed to support them.

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Anniversary Stories: Evolution of the Market Foundation

As we celebrate this monumental anniversary, we’re looking back on our history and honoring the staff, service partners, volunteers and supporters who have helped nurture a thriving community in the Market.

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