The Charleston City Market: A Brief History

The Charleston Market: A Brief HistoryIn the 1700s in Charleston, there was no refrigeration, and so it was necessary to go to the market for food each day. In the 1790s, at the corner of Broad and Meeting Street, the first public market was established in Charleston. At first, beef was sold at Meeting and Broad Streets, fish at the East end of Queen Street, which is now Vendue Range, farm produce from the barrier island planters at the East end of Tradd Street, now South Adger’s Wharf, and butter was sold on the peninsula. After the American Revolution, city planners decided for many reasons to consolidate these markets into one Center Market at Broad and Meeting. Turkey buzzards, called Charleston Eagles, were a common sight and were protected by law since they rid the area of scraps. Contrary to what most people believe, slaves were not sold at the Charleston City Market. At first, only food was sold here. Later it became a place for locals to meet, drink, and play games. In the 1840s, Charleston architect Edward B. White, designed the Market Hall at Meeting and Broad Streets. In 1788 Charles Pinkney donated a strip of recovered marsh to establish Center Market, which stretched from the docks of Charleston Harbor to Meeting Street. Other wealthy donors provided the additional land that was needed. The work to complete the market was extensive, as a canal had to be filled in.

In 1901, the number of food merchants using the market dropped, so City Council had to consider whether or not to use the area from East Bay to Anson Street for a park instead. This was considered repeatedly over the next few years, with the folks interested in historical preservation leading the debate. The Charleston Market is today a National Landmark.

Disasters and other Changes

In 1938, tornadoes severely damaged the City Market. They were repaired. In 1954 the Charleston Ground Observers positioned a plane spotting tower and telephone on top of the Market roof. The Market was again damaged in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo. It was restored and repainted in the original colors including a strong ochre and bright green iron work.

Today

Today the one story covered shelters extend four blocks to East Bay Street. They are open air and rest rooms have been added. The Market is open 365 days per year. You can find all sorts of souvenirs here: T-shirts, jewelry, post cards, handmade items, and Gullah Sweet Grass baskets as the makers themselves weave them before you.

According to visitor surveys conducted by the Center for Business Research of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston Market is the most popular, free attraction in the city. It is a great place to browse, pick up gifts, and people watch. It provides a lot to see as you walk around the city and experience famous points of interest.

So, as you plan your historic Charleston vacation, what better place to stay than an historical bed and breakfast! The Governor’s House Inn will fit the bill.  Contact them today to secure your special room!

Photo courtesy of:robertnebel

 

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