Central Market, Lancaster Pennsylvania

Date added: June 02, 2022 Categories: Pennsylvania Commercial Retail
Interior showing stalls (1972)

On May 16, 1730 Andrew Hamilton and Ann, his wife, conveyed inter alia to Caleb Pearce, John Wright, Thomas Edwards and James Mitchell, a square lot of land, containing in front on what is now West King Street 120 feet, and extending of that width northward a like distance. This conveyance was in trust, "for erecting, keeping or holding a market within the Town of Lancaster for the ease and conveniency of the inhabitants thereof and others having occasion to resort thither."

Soon afterward, a market was built and maintained on King Street, at the south side and west end of the lot, and that to the north lay an open, space which subsequently took the name of Market Square, This space seems to have been used as an open-air market.

Witham Marsh, in his journal made at the time of the Indian Treaty of 1744, says: "They have a good market in this town, well filled with provision of all kinds and prodigiously cheap."

The Market itself is a symbol of the entire culture of Lancaster County, which informally socializes immigrants, and brings together elites and masses. The Central Market of Lancaster is a prime example of how cities can order themselves under conditions of rapid change. The market links the public sector of planning, taxation and incorporation based on the needs of the city as a whole with the private world of the small scale, family organized classical market, free trade and agricultural capitalism.


On May 16, 1730, Andrew Hamilton set aside land for erecting, keeping, or holding a market within the Town of Lancaster.

On May 1, 1742, King George II established the Central Market forever on this land.

1744. Witham Marsh in his journal made at the time of the Indian Treaty of 1744: "They have a good market in this town, well filled with provision of all kinds and prodigiously cheap."

The Borough record from 1742-1757 reveals many activities at the market, but it was not until 1757 that a market house was built.

In 1765 the Market House, erected in 1757, was removed and a new Market House was built, large enough to house fire engines in one corner of the market.

From 1773-1776 considerable repairs were made to the Market House and the Market Square was enlarged at this time. It was during this time that a great deal of talk and consideration was given to building a larger market. Because of the revolutionary war, this work was not completed. In 1770, however, a temporary addition to the market house was built.

In 1798 the borough entered into an agreement with the Free Mason Lodge 43 to rebuild a part of the Market House "Sufficiently strong to support a superstructure". As a result of this agreement, one of the first air rights buildings in the United States came into being.

In 1812 a "shed of piazza" was built on the north side of the Market house (cost $718.00). The borough records reveal that during the war on 1812, Lancaster sent volunteers to Elkton and Baltimore, Maryland. The volunteers were supplied by the city because neither the state nor the United States government could pay for these supplies ($800.00). As a result, the County gave $500.00 to the City toward the construction of the portico on the Market House.

In 1854 a new market house was built. It was at this time that William Henry's home was purchased and taken down.

The present market, built in 1889, is the culmination of 159 years of Lancaster city and county market history. It is as much a part of Lancasters life today as it was in the early days of Lancaster Borough.

Building Description

The Central Market in Lancaster was built in 1889. It was built of locally produced brick in the Romanesque Revival style. The front of the market contains twin towers (72 feet high or 3 stories) with a gable between them. The roof is hipped on the other three sides with a smaller gable end and minor entrance on the east side.

The towers and facade of the market have a rock faced brownstone base with similar attention given to window heads and sills. Cluster windows are used at the top of the towers and in the gables of the market. The use of stepped bricks to form the capital of the tower and column and recessed areas between the brick pilasters is seen on the entire perimeter of the market.

A smaller gable with cluster windows above and round headed doorway is on the east side. Both gables are capped with cement as is their return. Two rows of alternating double casement dormers dot the roof of the market. Although the market is considered one story high, it has a very high roof built to let in light and air. A braced overhanging eave protects stalls on the anterior section.

The interior of the market is composed of wooden pillars supporting the roof and grid work of steel rod Howe Trusses. Ample light is given by the large windows in the walls and dormers. The stalls are in the pattern of a grid made by intersecting aisles.

The Central Market is devoid of ornamentation with the exception of the terra cotta roof and finials of the towers and the returns. A checker board stone also sets off the lesser gable on the east side.