Friday, December 9, 2022

Old St. Louis Markets History

In just a few decades, our way of buying food has drastically changed. First, with the supermarket. Now, with online grocery shopping. In the 19th century, grocery shopping in St. Louis was dominated by large markets (the corner of Market and Levee) and shopping days were Wednesdays and weekends, according to the ordinance.

Soulard Market is a historical remnant from those days. However, there were many markets like it all over St. Louis. Here are Soulard Market’s past competitors, and one market that might have been. (Note: This is not an exhaustive list.

French Market

This one is located just north of Soulard Market. It takes its name from Frenchtown which was the area that was developed south of St. Louis in the early 19th-century. Ironically, many German immigrant families lived in the neighborhood, including Adolphus Busch, and Eberhard Anheuser. This is also evident in the founding of St. Mary of Victories, a second Roman Catholic parish.

A photograph was taken in 1872 looking northward on Broadway. The French Market is at the center and the old Sacred Heart Convent is to the left.

French Market was located in the middle Broadway, just south of Chouteau Avenue. It was originally known as South Market. On March 18, 1829, the city created it. 332 shares of the stock were then sold to investors for $25 each to help pay for the construction of the market building. Also, a North Market was established.

French Market was economically affected by the existence of Soulard Market, which is still in operation. French Market started to decline as the neighborhood of immigrants industrialized around the 20th century. Newspaper articles in 1910 describe the efforts of French Market businessmen to portray the area as a destination for clothing and upscale merchandise.

Hopes were quickly dashed when the Municipal Free Bridge (now MacArthur) was opened. Later newspaper reports recounted stories about tenants who sat in old market stalls and were eventually evicted. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 was the final nail in the coffin. The area today is home to a mix of old warehouses, parking lots, and train viaducts. The only remaining remnant of the old market is a short street called “French Market Court”.

Lucas Market

Tucker Boulevard is wide between Olive and Chestnut streets. It is not due to the bond issue of the early 20th Century that broadened many of St. Louis’ major artifacts. This is where the Lucas Market was located, which was established in 1845. The street was choked with shoppers and delivery wagons until its dissolution in 1882. It is not as unusual as it sounds to have a market at the center of a major street. It is very common in America. Baltimore, Maryland has two markets of the same type: the Broadway and Cross Street markets.

Reservoir Market

Reservoir Market was one of the most popular and forgotten St. Louis markets. Its name is derived from the original reservoir that was built to supply the city’s water system. The reservoir, which was at the time located on the northern fringes of settlement, was in disuse and ruins by the time Compton and Dry took it over in 1875. However, the market was just across the street. In 1865, the original building was built. This was just after the Civil War. The area was not in the middle of the defensive fortifications around the city. After the original owners of the market put the market up for sale, an addition was constructed in 1883.

Newspaper articles reveal that the market was still operating in 1923. Its presence in German-language newspapers shows that it was used as a place to meet immigrants who belonged to various civic societies. Fire insurance maps show that the market was later used as a parish school for the nearby Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, just a few blocks away. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed many decades ago. The Reservoir Market building was also damaged and eventually demolished. The Griot Museum for Black History is located on St. Louis Avenue.

Mound Market

Mound Market, established in 1843 as the fourth city market, was situated near the Grange de Terre. This is the largest Native American mound that used to line the Mississippi River bluffs. The market is located at Broadway and Howard Street. It can be found only on maps and in Compton and Dry’s 1875 photograph. Three years later, newspaper articles revealed that the market was the center of temperance and meetings between political parties.

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