Like most cities, shopping in Columbus prior to 1950 was almost exclusively a function of Downtown. This was for the simple reason that widespread suburbs did not exist yet and Downtown was the heart of the city, where almost everyone lived and worked, and therefore did all of their shopping there as well. Most of this shopping occurred in family owned shops and small marketplaces, but as the city grew, the need for larger centers of commerce began to rise. Beginning in 1849 and continuing through early 1850, Central Market was built at S. 4th and E. Town Streets. Opening on June 1, 1850, Central Market was designed to be an economic center for the city, but also served as City Hall from May 1851 until 3/28/1872 when the new City Hall opened.
Central Market C. 1860-1880
Central Market was a very popular market for decades, and at its height, attracted some 20,000 shoppers during weekend days. Its success allowed for the creation of other, smaller markets nearby. East Market was located at the intersection of Mt Vernon and Miami Avenues in the King-Lincoln neighbrohood. West Market was located on S. Gift Street in Franklinton. North Market, the last to be built, was finished in 1876 and located at the intersection of Spruce and N. Hight Streets.
Original North Market: 1876-1948
As time passed, each of these markets succumbed, most notably through fire. East and West Markets were gone by the 1940s, and North Market, too, burned to the ground in February 1948. Central Market was spared fire and significant alteration, existing almost exactly as it was built through the entirety of its lifetime. It also continued to serve as a marketplace, albeit with steadily declining traffic, through the 1950s. Its future, however, was doomed. With no widespread preservation groups at the time and with the push for Urban Renewal, a historic relic like Central Market had no chance. So, in June 1966, Central Market was demolished to make way for a new Greyhound Bus terminal, an exceedingly ugly building built in the brutalist style that was popular during the time.
Central Market during demolition, June 1966
North Market’s replacement did survive somewhat, but was in pretty bad shape by the 1980s. In 1988, the North Market Development Authority was formed to bring the old market back to life. Unfortunately, the old building was not feasible to reuse as the market.
The 1948 North Market building’s entrance on Spruce Street in 1990. Not exactly inviting.
In 1992, Nationwide Insurance sold the NMDA a former warehouse just to the west of the original location. A $5 million renovation of the warehouse was completed and the new North Market opened in November 1995. Today, North Market remains a very popular destination and has played a role in the area’s revitalization, especially along Park Street, which has become a popular spot for new bars and restaurants. It has become a strong incubator for area small businesses and helped launch concepts such as Jeni’s Ice Creams.
North Market, 1998.
Although much has been lost to time, markets are now returning as an important part of urban life. With North Market’s success and a now increasing population in the Downtown area, a need for the market has returned. A Hills Market grocery store is now in the works at Grant Avenue and should be opening within the next month or two. While lacking the scale and nature of 19th century marketplaces, it will serve new generations of Downtown residents who are helping to bring back this urban neighborhood.