Oregon Design and Architecture Oregon History

Re-birth of the Eugene Fifth Street Market, again

A look at Eugene’s Fifth Street Public Market and its rebirth.

Call it what you will, a retrofit, renovation, re-do. We like to call it “re-birth,” or the taking of an existing structure and repurposing it a usable space or place.

One good example is Eugene’s Fifth Street Public Market.

What was once a poultry plant built in 1929, it re-morphed into the current-day vibrant market for artisans, foodies and retailers in 1976 – and gets 1.4 million visitors a year.

The next phase for the space, which continues to grow, is the addition of the Inn at the 5th, a boutique hotel that opened last month that connects to the past by:

incorporating elements of the past throughout the hotel, including mantles made using wood from the original Nike Store. Bedside tables and a signature lobby coffee table were handcrafted from the trunk of the stately maple tree that once grew on the site.

Here’s a photo set of pics from the previous decades (no, those aren’t Instagram retro filters) that illustrate how the space has changed through the years:

7 replies on “Re-birth of the Eugene Fifth Street Market, again”

French bakery here was so good when we lived I. Springfield.
Back to Portland restaurant. – Bergson Chalet in NW., Old Town Crier, nendels, Redmonds On The Hill,.

I worked at Metropol Bakery for under a year in the early 80’s, and highly respect the quality achieved. They use the best ingredients and their recipes are spot on. Even their fruitcake was scrumptious! I started out washing dishes, then made croissants and fresh pasta. Great bunch of dedicated food-loving people and wonderful bosses as directors of the operations. This bakery surely elevated the culinary standards in Eugene.

And the re-modelings continue..even a reconditioned steel railroad boxcar showed up in the lot as a leaher goods purveyor. Meanwhile, close-by, the losses mount…here’s a short list. Civic Stadium gone in fire. Bowling alley on Willamette the same. Original IHOP near Ferry Street Bridge leveled and replace by Whole Foods. Bowling alley on Main in Springfield torn down..another car lot. The site of New Anchorage Drive-In (1958), used in expanded form as Louie’s Village chinese restaurant, torn out. The site of Ford’s Drive-In Coffee Shop (1930’s?) & Dinner House (1958) was finally leveled. [Ford’s claimed to be the site of the first drive-in restaurant in the State of Oregon. The name can be traced back into the downtown core in the 1920’s.] And of course, the mid century City Hall eyesore was demolished. Meanwhile, Junction City continues to be turned into an ever expanding row of fast food quickie stops.

I used to love to go shop at the 5th street market on a regular basis. First time I set foot in the place was 1979. Construction was still going on, had to walk on planks and weave between billowing sheets of clear Visqueen draped on the thresholds. What an adventure!

Finally, it was filled with a fantastic maze of little shops, my favorites were in the basement. There were places to grab incredible food, buy some wine, look at art and leather goods for sale. The Coffee Corner was upstairs, always had to stop and buy my coffee and tea there. Metropol Bakery was downstairs in the basement and was constantly bustling with activity. Always had to wait in line to buy some bread but it was always worth it. The aromas of all those basement restaurants flooded the whole place. With the coffee store upstairs, man, what and experience! Oh, yeah, ALWAYS made a stop downstairs at the Paper Trader– hundreds of really one-of-a kind cards and stationary items.

At that time, the 5th Street Market was to Eugene what Pike Street Market is to Seattle. A memorable and unique destination and a place where even a poor a college student could afford to spend money. It was part of what made Eugene interesting and unique. Part of its quirky personality. That flying geese mural on the side of the building pictured in one of the photos above. I remember that.

Now all that’s gone. The fascinating collection of eclectic basement shops swept away. Everything is sleek, packaged, controlled, exclusive, and REALLY expensive– Oh so VERY “corporate.” Expensive shops whose owners probably pay expensive rent to sell their expensive inventory to the patrons staying in the expensive hotel.

I still live in the Eugene area and I never set foot in the place anymore because it is so altered and caters to the rich set. Seriously. There is absolutely nothing to attract me anymore. It’s boring.

Yes, it has changed so much – a real dearth of hand created woodwork and ceramics, that used to be ubiquitous. The hippie ethos and student vibe of Eugene has been diluted. I’m thankful I have so many memories at any rate – the flying geese reminded me! I replied to this post about working at Metropol – remember the sunny yellow paint when going downstairs, and being eager to dive into creating food I was proud of.

I have lived here since 1972, I remember when the 5th street market first opened in 1976 and continued to grow. I worked about a block away throughout the 1990s. This was the time that I really enjoyed the market. Balladeer music, Metropol, the bookstore on the 2nd floor, Wonderland arcade, Paper Traders, Claytrade the original Cafe Yumm. I used to go there once a week during the nice weather and get lunch, grab a What’s Happening (now Eugene Weekly), find a spot outside and enjoy my lunch, watching the people and occasionally listening to some live music playing.

Yes, I agree, it has been ruined. It has gone far too upscale. When Brian Obie raised the lease rates and drove out Balladeer, Metropol, Cafe Yumm and Paper Traders in the late 1990s, I lost interest in going there.

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