Market Sheds and Houses
Dr. James Mease, in his Picture of Philadelphia, states that the first markets were held at the corner of Front and High (Market) Streets, and that a bell hung on the shed was rung when anyone brought provisions there from the country for sale. These were a range of wooden stalls from Front to Second Street.
Councils, on July 4, 1720, resolved to erect a new building "the building to be the width of the court-house, in height ten foot to the joice, the length of the stalls joining to be sixteen foot, to have an alley of four foot between them and the next two stalls. The shelter at the back of the stalls three foot and a half on the outside, the Breadth of the stall three foot and a half within, the clear Walk fourteen foot, and the stalls to be eight foot Distance from the court-house, but the Roof to join to the court-house. That the whole be paved with Brick at the Height of the court-house floor in the Middle, and to be painted without on both sides."
In the market house the following regulation was posted: "No person be suffered to Smoke Tobacco in the market or Market House or in any of the stalls," by order of Councils.
When a boat with produce made fast to the wharf a bell located at Front Street was rung.
In May, 1745, the residents of the southern part of the city petitioned to erect a market house on South Second Street, from Pine to Cedar (South) Street. The market house erected there is an exact reproduction of the court house or town hall and market house as stood on High (Market) Street in Colonial times.
In 1759 the market house on High Street was extended to Third Street. In 1810 the sheds were continued to Sixth Street, and finally to Eighth Street; then from there to Fifteenth Street; the farmers stood with their wagons at the street-curb and on the pavements around Centre Square at Broad Street (the site of the present Public Buildings). From Fifteenth to Seventeenth street was another series of market houses; these were demolished in April, 1859.
The market sheds in the Northern Liberties, on Second Street, from Hickory Lane (Fairmount Avenue) to Poplar Lane were built in 1763.
Later sheds were erected on Callowhill Street, from Fourth to Seventh; Girard Avenue, westward from Marlborough Street to Frankford Road, and again from Howard to Third Street, from Apple (now Lawrence) to Eighth Street, and from Tenth to Twelfth Street, the intervening plots being curbed, but otherwise open, and used by the children in the immediate neighborhood as playgrounds. There were also market sheds on Shippen (Bainbridge) Street from Third to Fifth Street. Moyamensing Avenue and South Eleventh Street.
In 1852 a movement was instituted to abolish the market sheds belonging to the respective municipal corporations that were all in public streets. A company was incorporated under the title of "The Broad Street Market House Company," which erected a suitable building on the east side of Broad Street, below Race, in 1854. But the
public could not be induced to do its marketing there, and it became a failure. The city eventually becoming the possessor of the building, and using it as the city armory. Another market house was erected on the south side of Race Street, at the corner of Juniper, which also proved a failure. The city also acquiring this property, and later using it for the headquarters of the fire department.
In 1859 the subject of the entire removal of the markets from Market Street was warmly agitated. The stalls from Front to Eighth Street were commenced to be removed November 25, 1859. This was at the instance of the Pennsylvania Railroad which wanted Market Street as an avenue to the Delaware River, and they ran their tracks alongside of the market houses and turned down Third Street to Dock Street to the river. The freight depot being at the southwest corner of Thirteenth and Market Streets until 1874, when the city having decided to erect the City Hall at the intersection of Broad and market Streets the railroad tracks below Fifteenth Street were taken up, an the freight depot removed to Market Street above Fifteenth.
Individual corporations, composed mostly of farmers, erected closed market houses as follows:
The Western, northeast corner of Sixteenth and Market Streets, opened in 1859, was later disposed of to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and another erected on Market Street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth. The Eastern, opened on November 26, 1859, corner of Fifth and Merchant Streets (now the site of the Bourse); the Farmers', north side of Market, between Eleventh and Twelfth; the Franklin, at the corner of Twelfth Street, adjoining the above. This market was originally built on Tenth street above Chestnut where the Mercantile Library now stands; the Lincoln, southwest corner Broad and Coates Streets; the Globe, Tenth Street and Montgomery Avenue and Nineteenth and Oxford Streets; the Norris, at Third and Norris Streets; the Centennial, at Twenty-second and South Streets; the Federal, Seventeenth and Federal Streets; the Northwestern Ridge Avenue below Girard Avenue; the Girard Avenue Farmers' Market, Ninth Street and Girard avenue; Keystone, Third and Girard; Phoenix Market, Sixth and Columbia Avenue; Kater, Nineteenth and Market Streets and Broad and Columbia Avenue; Kater, Nineteenth and Market Streets and Broad and Columbia Avenue.
The smallest market shed was Newmarket and Callowhill, adjacent to Gaul's Ale Brewery.
Curbstone farmers' markets are still in vogue on South Street on Fridays and Saturdays. Wagons, minus their horses, and automobile trucks laden with fresh produce, closely packed, line the curbstone on South Street from the Delaware River to Fifth Street.