COMPLETED IN 1912, five years after the Pike Place Market opened, the Corner Market Building is set like a keystone at the head of its landmark block bordered by First Avenue, Pike Street and Pike Place. The architect, Seattle’s Harlan Thomas, wrapped elegance around the corner with contrasting brickwork, generous arching windows along the top floor, and, at the sidewalk, open stalls for selling mostly fresh foodstuffs.
Photographer Frank Shaw dated this, his 2-by-2-inch slide, April 12, 1975. Joan Paulson disagrees, and in this I join her. April 12 was the Saturday when the nearly weeklong “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in and Historic Restoration” was fulfilled and celebrated. That morning, before the awards, artists could apply their last brush strokes to their assigned 4-by-8-foot primed panels, which for the next seven months would serve as both an exhibit and as a construction fence to separate and protect laborers and shoppers from each other.
It was Paulson who put the primed panels and about 50 painters together and, when needed, purchased the art supplies as well. Paulson recalls, “They could start painting on Monday. It rained on Tuesday. Most likely this is Wednesday or Thursday. There’s too much left to do with the panels and too few people for it to be the celebration on Saturday the 12th.”
As a chronicler of Pike Place Market history, Paulson notes the unique “bottom-up” energies that made protecting the Market a people’s project connecting historic preservation with urban renewal and its federal funding. Appropriately, a force named Friends of the Market fueled the victorious 1971 citizens’ initiative to “Save the Market.” In most of this, University of Washington professor of architecture Victor Steinbrueck was never out of the picture, and here in Frank Shaw’s slide, Paulson has found him as well. Far right, in a straw hat, the “savior of the market” is working on his own contributions to the paint-in.
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In Jean Sherrard’s “now” photo 39 years later, Paulson stands at the corner by the lamp post holding up a rolled paper in her right hand.
On Saturday April 12, at the lunchtime awards ceremony, Steinbrueck was one of the winners. The judges explained that to this special “paint-in artist we give the whole Market to do with as he pleases for the rest of the day, and arts writer Roger Downey (one of the judges) will wash his brushes.” With work completed on the Corner Market Building’s exterior in late November, all the “unique-to-the-market masterpieces” came down, including the surviving half of Steinbrueck’s mural, the part not punctured by a beam during construction.
Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at www.pauldorpat.com.