Baltimore Municipal Markets

City of Baltimore Flag   Baltimoreans enjoy their markets very much.


   This information was made available by Eric L. Holcomb, Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, Baltimore, Maryland.

   Baltimore's unique public market system dates back to 1763 when the first market was erected at Gay and Baltimore Streets with funds raised through a lottery. Eleven markets eventually encircled the heart of the city, each serving a distinct neighborhood and clientele.


Read the histories below in the virtual world, then visit the actual markets in the real world.

   All municipal markets are open Monday through Thursday 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Friday and Saturday from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Closed Sunday.


Cross Street Market

   Steady growth in South Baltimore led to a petition for a market here in 1838. The first market building, a long open-air shed erected in 1845-46, extended along Cross Street between Charles and Patapsco. In 1864, an identical building was erected to the east, doubling the amount of market space. Five years later, the first market building was condemned and the City Commissioned Frank Davis, local Baltimore architect, to design a new structure on the same site. Davis' market, designed in the Italianate Style, featured a large public hall on the second story, which served the community as a gathering place for public meetings, recreation and entertainment.

   On market days, farmers set up stalls and tents on Cross Street, attracting such crowds that the police erected wooden towers at each end of the market to direct traffic. In 1951, the market and much of Cross Street burned to the ground. The present structure was built in 1952.


Lafayette Market

   In 1867, Neighborhood residents circulated a petition for the establishment of a market house in what was then northwest Baltimore. The petition was approved, and the new market was named Lafayette Market, in honor of the Frenchmen who supported and defended the American Republic. The building completed in 1871, when a windstorm ripped the roof off its iron pillars. The market was rebuilt the following year.

   The present market house was completed in 1956, after a 12 alarm fire reduced the old one to ashes. This market used the relatively new building technology of pre-stressed concrete girders. The roof is supported not by center posts but by 12 pre-stressed concrete beams with steel cores. The largest one, which weights fifty tons and measures more than 100 feet long and six feet high at its center point, was hauled to the market in the dead of night, accompanied by police escorts.


Hollins Market

   Hollins Market, the city's oldest market structure in use, was established in fledgling west Baltimore in 1835. That year, the City granted the petition of piano manufacturer Joseph Newman "and others" to erect market house at their own expense. Their first fragile construction, on land given by Banker George T. Dunbar, blew down in a windstorm of 1838. The following year the market house was rebuilt.

   In 1863-64, the City Council appropriated 23,000$ to erect this Italianate addition to the old market house. Interestingly, during those divisive Civil War Days, the Council refused to consider any bid for the market's construction that did not come from "parties...known to be thoroughly and unconditionally Union Men."

   The market takes its name from the Hollins Family who owned large tracts of land west of Baltimore.


Belair Market

   The sixth Baltimore market, Belair Market, was constructed on land deeded to the City for five dollars in 1818 by Nicholas Rogers, owner of the estate that became Druid Hill Park.

   The market derives its name from the Belle-Air Road, one of the early turnpikes that fanned out like the spokes of a wheel connecting the city to the surrounding counties. On the nights preceding markets days, farmers rumbled down the road in conestoga wagons laden with hay, produce, and livestock for city consumers.

   The farmers would often put up for the night at a nearby hotel, a lively spot where so much trading was carried on that the hotel itself became something of a market place.

   In 1871 a windstorm lifted the roof of the market. several markets have succeeded the original structure. At one time, the market was made up of more than six buildings, but a fire in the 1930s drastically reduced its size. The Belair Market became part of the successful urban renewal efforts of Oldtown beginning in 1969.


Lexington Market

   The tradition of selling produce on Lexington Market's site began in 1783 upon the permission of Colonel John Eager Howard who allowed a farmer's market to be placed upon Howard's Hill. Thirty Years later, the City erected a building upon Howard's Hill and officially named the market "Western Precinct Market", for it stood on the western outskirts of Baltimore Town.

   In 1818, after Baltimore expanded its boundaries, the market changed its name to Lexington Market. By 1822 the market was well known and virtually bustling with immense business. U.S. Attorney General William Wirt described the Lexington Market in a Letter:

"You may conceive that vast quantity of provisions that must be brought to this market when you are told that 60,000 people draw the daily supplies from it; which is more than twice as many people as there are in Washington, Alexandria and Richmond."

   Ralph Waldo Emerson, after visiting Lexington Market, described Baltimore as "The Gastronomical Capital of the Universe".

   The Lexington Market grew in reputation and fame throughout the years. In 1903, the Baltimore Herald exclaimed, "Lexington Market leads the world. Baltimore is famous as a epicure's paradise, and Lexington Market is its epicurean capital. From the truck farms of Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and other states, east and west comes its supplies of good things".

   In 1949, the Lexington Market burned completely to the ground. Shortly thereafter, the market was rebuilt with a bond issue. Today, Lexington Market holds many food stalls which have been in the same family for three, four and even five generations.


Broadway Market

   This market was established in 1784 to serve the bustling waterfront community of Fells Point, which at that time rivaled Baltimore Town in Commercial prosperity and population.

   In 1797, when the Masons wanted to erect a lodge on the market place, a city ordinance was passed requiring that the market be moved to the center of the street. A market house has stood there ever since.

   Several structures have succeeded the original one. The present market, built in 1864, was formerly topped with a spacious second story hall that was used for social and civic affairs. After a fire damaged the building in the 1960s, the second story of removed.

   The market traditionally served the sailors and immigrants who inhabited Fells Point. Many of the stalls today have been operated by the same family for four or five generations.


Northeast Market

   Northeast Market, the youngest of the city markets, was established here in 1884-85 to serve the rapidly expanding area. The first market house, a sprawling wooden barn, looked out over fields and farms to the north and east, and the creeping city to the west and south. Farmers used to drive herds of pigs along Monument Street to Hohmand's Slaughterhouse, now the site of Levenson and Klein Department Store. To the south and east of the market was Bohemia Village home to thousands of Czechs who immigrated to Baltimore in the 1880s and 1890s to work as weavers and tailors. At one time, most of the market stalls and many of the Monument Street stores were owned and operated by Czechs or Germans.

   Long known for its friendliness, during the Baltimore Fire of 1904, Northeast Market sheltered the household belongings deposited by neighborhood residents worried that the fire might reach them.

   In 1955, the long wooden barn was replaced with the present brick structure.


For more information contact

  • Eric L. Holcomb, Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation,
  • Charles L. Benton Jr. Building,
  • 417 E. Fayette Street, Suite 1037,
  • Baltimore, Maryland 21202, USA (Phone:
  • 410-396-4866, press 5).

  • Baltimore Department of Municipal Markets: (410-276-9498).

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