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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MARKETS AND MARKET HOUSES - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MARKETS AND MARKET HOUSES. The public market is an institution in Cleveland, as it is in almost every large city in Europe and many in the U.S. It was conceived as a place where farmer and consumer could meet for the sale and purchase of farm products without the intervention of middlemen. If the commission merchant--the middleman--long ago took the farmer's place, prices were still lower than those of retail supermarkets, while quality was higher. The first public market in Cleveland was established in 1829 on Ontario St. south of PUBLIC SQUARE, with stalls offered at auction to the highest bidder. When the first ordinance regulating markets was passed the following year, fresh meats could be sold every day except Sunday, while vegetables and "other articles" could be offered only on Wednesday and Saturday. By 1836 there were 4 open-air markets in a village of 3,080 inhabitants. A second food market had been established near the Canal Basin at the foot of Superior St., and 2 wood markets were operating, one on Public Square near Ontario and another at Superior and Water (W. 9th) streets. In 1839 the city's first municipal market house was built on Michigan St. (behind the present Dillard's department store), establishing regular market days on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Long lines of wagons made their way there, and the surrounding area soon became a hay market, with farmers and hucksters selling directly from their vehicles. In OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO), FRANKLIN CIRCLE, platted and dedicated to public use in 1836, served as an open-air farmers' market until 1857, when it was refurbished as a city park. The market continued to operate nearby at Ann and Clinton streets until Sept. 1859, when it moved to the northwest corner of Lorain and Pearl (W. 25th) streets; there it occupied land JOSIAH BARBER† and RICHARD LORD† had set aside for public use in 1840. "Market Square," as it came to be known, was enlarged with subsequent donations of land in 1853 and 1864, and the city built a wooden market house there in 1868.

A new Central Market situated near the banks of the CUYAHOGA RIVER and Pittsburgh St. was authorized by the city council in 1858, replacing the Michigan St. market which was torn down and rebuilt on the new site. Many objected to the CENTRAL MARKET's out-of-the-way location, and it was slow to fill. Although farmers contended that they had the right to sell their goods on any public ground, an ordinance passed in 1859 provided that all selling from wagons must be done from the market grounds. Vendors defied the law, but protest gradually subsided, and the Central Market became well established as the city's major marketing center. A new Central Market containing 100 stalls for fish, meat, and vegetables was completed on Ontario St. between Bolivar and Eagle streets in 1867. The same year, city council, authorized construction of a small market house in the 5th Ward, at the corner of St. Clair and Nevada streets, but by 1874 it was used only irregularly and was abandoned by 1900. The 45-stall Newburgh Market (later called the Broadway Market) operated at Broadway and Canton Ave. from Dec. 1879 until 1963.

Rapid urbanization and the rising cost of living after 1900 stimulated interest in efficient and economical markets, which led to heightened activity in the establishment of city markets nationwide. In 1901 Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON† appointed a market house commission, which purchased a site for a new WEST SIDE MARKET across the street from the old one. The new market, a fanciful interpretation of a Roman basilica designed by the Cleveland firm of HUBBELL & BENES, opened in 1912. Market Square continued to serve as a flower and produce market. According to the first annual report of the superintendent of markets in 1906, all stalls and stands at the Central and West Side markets were rented, but the Newburgh Market was not well patronized. Under a new ordinance regulating weights and measures effective 1 Jan. 1906, the Div. of Weights & Measures inspected every weighing and measuring device used for the sale of commodities in Cleveland; and under the new health code, an inspector visited each market daily to examine all meat and produce. Receipts for market operations in 1906 equaled $37,511, while expenses were $14,379. Income was derived from renting stands, charges for cold storage at the West Side Market, licenses issued for the extensive farmers' curb market occupying Broadway, Woodland, and Central avenues in the vicinity of the Central Market, and fees for inspecting weights, measures, and scales. In 1913 the superintendent of markets reported that an estimated 75,000 Clevelanders patronized the public markets each week.

Cleveland's rapid population growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to the opening of several privately owned and operated markets. The largest of these was the SHERIFF ST. MARKET, opened on Christmas Eve 1891. Occupying the entire block of Sheriff (E. 4th) St. between Huron and Bolivar roads (now the site of Gund Arena), it competed with the nearby Central Market until it closed in 1936. Designed by LEHMAN AND SCHMITT, it was an architectural wonder, with a great central iron-and-glass dome flanked by 2 cold-storage towers. The Euclid-105th St. Market, strategically located to serve the prosperous suburbs of EAST CLEVELAND, CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, and SHAKER HEIGHTS, opened in 1917 at 10309 Euclid Ave. with 150 stalls. Forced to relocate in 1941, the market operated on a much-reduced scale at 1981 E. 105th St. until it finally closed in the aftermath of the HOUGH RIOTS. Other small, privately owned markets were located at Euclid Ave., and E. 46th St.; Woodland Ave. and E. 55th St.; E. 106th St. and St. Clair; and Gordon Square at W. 65th and Detroit. In 1932 the East Cleveland Farmers' Market opened at Coit and Woodworth roads. Operated by the Northeastern Ohio Growers' Cooperative Assn., Inc., for farmers in Lake and Geauga counties, it was still doing business in 1995, selling fresh produce, eggs, and flowers every Wednesday and Saturday.

By the 1920s dramatic changes in Cleveland were felt in the city's traditional marketplaces. Commercial expansion, especially the CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL complex, had displaced thousands of market customers who had once lived on Orange, Prospect, and other downtown streets. Refrigeration meant that consumers no longer had to buy fresh food each day. And with the proliferation of automobiles and a reduced demand for hay, the HAYMARKET district at the south end of Ontario grew smaller. In 1929 Cleveland's wholesale food trade moved almost en masse into the new NORTHERN OHIO FOOD TERMINAL on Woodland Ave. But perhaps the most important changes were suburbanization and the advent of cooperative food stores and chain supermarkets. In 1929 33 of Cleveland's largest food retailers combined to form United Food Stores; 3 years later, 200 grocers united to form Edwards Food Stores. Supermarkets, with their uniform merchandising and advertising and economies of scale, eroded business at the city's traditional markets and put many small grocers out of business. So did a changing way of life. When Braman Grocery, in business at 9527 Madison Ave. since 1899, finally closed in 1955, Oliver Braman commented, "Fifty years ago when a housewife came in she'd buy flour, baking powder, lard and other things for a cake. Now she'll buy a cake mix." Although rentals became more difficult, the public markets remained busy and continued to earn income for the city while reducing the cost of living for its residents.

In the 1930s the WPA assisted in repairing and painting the city's 3 markets. Despite longstanding criticism from downtown business interests that it was an eyesore, traffic bottleneck, and health menace, the Central Market continued to draw large crowds of shoppers and provide a livelihood for over 200 tenants until it burned to the ground in Dec. 1949. The following spring, all but 40 of its tenants reopened in the former Sheriff St. Market bldg. Renamed the New Central Market and operated privately, it remained in business until 1988, when it was razed to make way for the Gateway project (see GATEWAY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORP.). Many displaced merchants moved to the East Side Market, 625 E. 105th St., opened in Dec. 1988. This, the city's newest public market, together with the West Side Market, continued to do a lively business, providing high-quality fresh food at low cost.

Carol Poh Miller


Last Modified: 04 Mar 1998 04:47:16 PM

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