Spokane's Public Market Place

After the Panic of 1893, Americans sought new ways to save on unnecessary spending. As families continued to grow, so did grocery bills. Spokane realized the success of Seattle's public marketplace and in the early 1900s sought ways to simulate the "market scheme." So great an interest was provoked in Seattle that "on the morning the market was thrown open the streets were packed with people, every market basket in the city was sold and orders for more telegraphed to the factories."

In January 1905, a petition circulated among Spokane farmers, fruit growers, and gardeners asking the city council to establish a city public market where all farm products could be offered for sale. The farmers believed they would not only benefit themselves, but the establishment would also aid the public. The farmers claimed that the quality of produce would be greatly improved by the open competition a public market would afford. It was not until 1908 when the matter was taken seriously.
Unfortunately, the farmers and councilmen opposed exactly how the public market would arise. Farmers combated the mayor' business plan, where farmers would have to pay rent for their stall, and the markets would operate under departments consisting of "political jobs." In January 1908 leading socialists communicated to Mayor Moore to lend aid towards the immediate construction of a public market. Mayor Moore replied, "The public market question will solve itself in the course of time." News accounts of the time indicate "councilmen have shown the usual degree of lethargy in this matter," referring to the struggle to agree on a location, real estate purchase price, and disregard for farmers' concerns.

After realizing the price of produce in the Seattle marketplace dropped twenty-five percent, Mayor Moore predicted the same would happen in Spokane. In August of 1908, after many politically disputes, Spokane's first public market opened and was a huge success to the delight of many Spokanites.
Early proponents of public markets were motivated by cost savings, where today, Spokane has seen a reemergence of public markets in reaction to food industrialization, nutrition, knowing food origins, and promoting local business. Venues located in Greenbluff, South Perry, Liberty Lake, 5th and Browne, and Main Market are all contemporary examples illustrating the explosion of public markets within the region.

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