I find it amazing to see pictures like these. To see what our town, neighborhoods, etc. looked like 100 years ago. Things change so fast. The 17th St. Farmer’s Market used to be known as “First Market” as shown in the photo.
The “publick market” (yes, it was spelled that way!) was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1779. It was part of the deal when the state transferred the Capitol from Williamsburg to Richmond. At the time 17th St was known as First St hence the “First Market” moniker. Main St. was also the main road that connected Williamsburg and Richmond. It was an important thoroughfare and it placed the “First Market” at a great location perfect for trading. In the beginning, it was simply an open shed. Some wooden posts with a roof.
A market building was completed in 1854. During its 58 years in use the building was a center for commerce and government. It included a police station, courtroom, and a bell that rang out on the hour. During elections, politicians would frequent the market using barrels of whiskey to entice voters.
The original market building, from 1854, was demolished in 1912. Since then there have been multiple structures, groups, construction projects, etc. that have gotten us to where we are today. Open air markets such as these have struggled in the U.S. with the advent of giant indoor grocery stores.
The Market Today
Despite the disaster that has been the latest renovation project I hope we can use this space as a place for the community to gather, get to know each other, and have fun. We’re a far cry from everyone meeting at the market to pick up local produce multiple days a week.
You barely have to leave your house these days with grocery deliveries, uber eats, and the prevalence of online shopping (I’m offender #1). Even though it’s convenient, we need to give some serious thought to what we’re losing. We have to make time to get to know our neighbors, our community, and the people we share this space with that has such a rich, beautiful, and sometimes tragic, history.
Research for this article came from:
And I was inspired by some photos I found Dogtown Dish