One of my favorite things about being from and living in Baltimore is our market system. For the unknowing, way back in the day before there were supermarkets and 7-11’s, citizens of a metropolis had to go to market for their food stuffs. Farmers and fishermen lugged their goods to market to sell to the populace. My Mother grew up on a farm in Perry Hall, outside of Baltimore City and would often make the trip into downtown to sell produce at the now defunct, Bel Air Market when she was a girl.
In this day and age, these markets, I guess, aren’t completely necessary but they still provide a valuable service to city residents and they are indeed a veritable beehive of activity. I can’t recall how many markets there were at their peak, but just for fun, I will try to name all of those still in existence from memory. There’s the Northeast Market that serves the neighborhood around Johns Hopkins Hospital. In Southwest Baltimore or SoWeBo as it is known by many of us, is Hollins Market. One of my favorite things about Hollins Market is that it sits a few blocks away from both, H.L. Mencken’s house AND Edgar Allan Poe’s house. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty much the meat in a famous dead writer sandwich.
On the water in historic Fell’s Point is the equally historic, Broadway Market, which was my favorite market when I was a boy. There used to be hay straw on the planked floor and there has never been a better milkshake made in the world than at the dairy stand that was there. It kills me that I can’t recall the name of that stall. I ask for help from other Baltimorons on that one.
It just dawned on me that we refer to the “shops” or “stands” in our markets as stalls, like in a barn. I wonder if other cities’ markets do that too?
Speaking of stalls, I used to work at Cross Street Wine and Cheese in the Cross Street Market in Federal Hill. The Cross Street Market just might be the most successful of the markets due to it’s being in what I assume is the neighborhood that has the highest per capita household income. When the stall that I worked for was there, it was the only market in which you could get crabs AND caviar. Weird.
The biggest and I’m fairly certain, the oldest of the markets is Lexington Market. It’s been around since 1782 and while all the other markets only take up one or two blocks, Lexington has a much larger geographic footprint and is the only market to boast an upstairs dining area. At one time the blocks around it were a true hub of commerce and one could walk from store to store. While that’s not true any longer, Lexington Market is always filled with people from all walks of life. The beggar and the businessman rub shoulders daily in this bustling bastion of old-school Baltimore. The sights and sounds inside and out are invigorating and if you are visitor to our fair city, you just have to go and get a hot dog from Polock Johnny’s and a crabcake from the world famous, Faidley’s. Speaking of Lexington Market and food, Ralph Waldo Emerson said..said…oh crap, something like, “This is the gastronomic capitol of the world!” Obviously, that’s not verbatim but really, Emerson totally dug, Lexington Market. So will all of you. Now check out these random photos from around Lexington Market.