It all began nearly 220 years ago when a wealthy Charleston family willed land to the town of Charleston to be used as a public market, with the stipulation that the property revert to the family if used for any other purpose. One of Charlestons most colorful relics has survived a tumultuous past, out lasting tornadoes, hurricanes, a major earthquake and devastation by fires and bombardment from without and within.
Located near the waterfront in the Ansonborough area ( the first actual suburb in America, c, 1727), the property was built on low lying marshland and a small tidal creek which were gradually filled in between 1804 and 1807 and were by then high enough to erect the market stalls.
The main building was built in 1841 and is an apparent modification of the Grecian-Doric temple of “The Wingless Victory” at Athens. The cornice is ornamented with ram’s and bull’s heads, a survival of the Greek custom of hanging in the temple skulls of animals sacrificed to the gods, later symbolized in conventional architecture.
The rifled cannon on the upper portico of the market is said to be the first manufactured in America. Archibald Cameron made it for the Confederate Government in 1861. Market Hall is used by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for the preservation of articles of historic interest connected with the War Between the States.
Below Market Hall was a spacious portico which was used as a meat and fish market. For sanitation purposes the three buildings behind Market Hall, which sold fruits and vegetables with other produce brought direct from island plantations were set apart.
Today when visiting Charleston, the City Market is a must to see. There are a total of four buildings spanning from Meeting Street to East Bay Street. An assortment of wares is sold by hundreds of vendors. Contrary to popular belief and hard to overcome, is the reputation of the City Market being a flea market. It is not! Most merchandise is first quality, some indicative to the area and some not. Sweet grass basket weavers can be seen in every building, along with, local artists, jewelry, tapestry, souvenirs, church dolls,afghans, rugs, rice, beans and sauces, local candies and cookies and much more. The horse and carriages gallop by with people from all over the world, restaurants line both North and South Market street. The atmosphere is festive and the southern.