“First, What kind of life was lived in this place, that is, Why and how did its builders build as they did?
And second, what rules with general validity and applicability did they follow?”
Carroll William Westfall, Learning From Pompeii.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Richmond's Second and Third Markets

As detailed in an earlier post, the legislation through which the city was chartered in 1782 established a common council and court of hustings as the local government, a clerk of the market, and a sergeant. A city market and market square were also mandated by the charter. The newer, less developed, and more elevated section of the city located on Shockoe Hill was selected as the site of the new capitol. The state authorities, encouraged by Thomas Jefferson, planned a new city around six adjoining public squares on the hill. Jefferson’s program for the new city, enacted in 1780, included placing the market on one of the squares. The authorities, however, demurred, undoubtedly because there was insufficient population on the hill to support it. Instead, the new market was placed directly between the old town of Richmond to the east of Shockoe Creek and the new capitol city on the hill to the west.

Although the city began with one principal public market at the crossing of Shockoe Creek, as the city grew subsidiary markets would be needed in new quarters or neighborhoods. These would be built as diluted versions of the First Market, responding to and reinforcing the organizational structure of the city, in much the same way that, in later years, branch libraries and post offices would express through their relative scales its hierarchical order. Richmond would have three public markets in place by the 1890s, each serving separate neighborhoods.

The historic relationship between a successful market and a traditional conception of the city's ideal order is shown by the repeated attempts to establish a prominent market on Shockoe Hill, where Jefferson envisaged a market as part of his new capital.  A "Shockoe Market" was set up to serve this area on the north side of Broad at Twelfth streets in the early 179os.  The General Assembly in 1793 retroactively gave the “Market-House erected on Shockoe Hill” the same privileges and regulations as the first market [An Act ascertaining the Boundaries of the City of Richmond, and for other purposes. November 27, 1793]. A sketch (below) shows the Shockoe Market Hall to have consisted of a long arcaded frame building similar to contemporary market halls in small towns across the state. At about the same time, the common council had rejected a plan 1793 to place this new Shockoe Market in the middle of Broad Street like some new markets that were inserted into existing street grids in other cities.

Shockoe Hill Market Hall at Broad and 12th (on the right) with the unfinished Academy
Building beyond from a sketch by Latrobe, 1797 or 98 
[From Bryan Clark Green, 1997]. 

 Site of 1793 Shockoe Market ("Old Market Square") near the Baptist Church [Young's Map of 1817].

Like the first market, the new market square was located off the grid. It was placed on the eastward slope of Shockoe Hill on a tract known as “Watson’s Tenement” where many public buildings were to be located in the coming decades. The part of this tract that had been laid off in lots was officially included in the city in 1793 by city ordinance. These would include the Academy, the Theater (and, therefore, Monumental Church), as well as the Medical College near the top of the hill and, eventually, the Lancastrian School and the City Jail at the bottom. Benjamin Henry Latrobe also proposed sites for his planned theater/hotel and church of c. 1798 at this key nodal location where the main route (Broad Street to Governor Street) turned to descend the hill. The new market appears to have failed to become established. 

The 1858 Adams Map shows the Second Market of 1834 at the upper left in relation 

to the First Market (unlabeled near the creek) at the lower right corner.

It was not until the upper town had grown in density and diversity a decade later that it could rise to urbanity by the  successful establishment of a second market. By that time, Jefferson’s program for the new metropolis on the hill was, for all practical purposes, complete.  At about the same time, the urban governing function was separated from the old First Market and moved to Shockoe Hill, where the City Court (City Hall) occupied a Neoclassical temple-form building behind and in an axial relationship to the Capitol, facing the city’s principal axis, Broad Street. 
The "New" or "Second" Market filled a lot on the southeast corner of Sixth and Marshall streets on Shockoe Hill in 1817. There are very few images showing the market house of that period. The illustration above shows it to the right. It was arcaded like its predecessor in the valley below.
The extension of Richmond's Second Market on the north side of Marshall Street 
after 1834,  showing the additional Market Hall on the left and the new square to the left 
of the central lot line [Virginia Mutual Policy of 1865].

The market square was expanded across Marshall Street to the north in 1834, and the large open area was eventually lined by shops on the north and east and by another market hall, also of a single story in height. It appears that the butchers had expanded in the original location and needed an enclosed hall, so that produce sellers needed a new market of their own.  The old hall south of Marshall was probably enclosed at this time to serve as a more sanitary meat market. 

Richmond’s Second Market on the 1876 Beers Map. The original c. 1817 Market Hall is on the south side of Marshall and the Market Square of 1834 is to the north (north is to the top on each).

 The 1889 Sanborn map shows the Headhouse/Police Station  with an arched opening on 
each side as is visible in the 1865 image below, by this time surrounded by shed roofs. 
Separate facilities for sale of fish and a large hay scale were features of most markets at this time. A new Meat Market replaced the c. 1817 market hall south of East Marshall in 1885. In Richmond the duties of the Weight Master, a city employee who certified the quality and weight of all fodder, hay, and other "long forage," were spelled out in a city ordinance dated Oct. 2, 1827.  The weight master or his deputy was employed from sunup until sundown every day except Sunday making sure that citizens were receiving the correct weight of animal feed for the price they paid.

By 1851, the hucksters had begun to block Sixth Street as far north as Broad and council responded to local concerns by extending the market boundaries to Broad and planning a police station, since the watch house was nearly two miles away at the First Market. In 1853, the city replaced the 1834 market house with a new open market house with a brick loggia at the south end containing the police station. The new hall, supported on tows of cast iron columns, also ranged along the west side of the 1834 square. A delicate trio of fanlights made a transom between each cast iron column (see also the William Sheppard illustration below).
A contemporary article commended the new market for its strength, durability, taste, neatness and convenience." He admired the two belfries. The one on the police station contained a 700-pound bell used to open and close the market and to sound alarms. The six-room police station continued cells that reflected badly on the uncomfortable "cage" that housed reprobates at the old market [Richmond's Flowering Second Market, Virginia Calvacade, Spring 1956]. A fish market, added in 1856, and the city scales were housed in separate structures to the east. Along the north side and an alley running along the east side the square was hedged in with shops. 

Leslie's Weekly illustration of 1865 showing the City Dogcatcher at the Second Market
with the 1817 Market Hall at right and the c 1834 Headhouse/Police Station
at the center with bell tower

The New Market, Corner of Market [sic] and Sixth Street, Richmond, Va.
[Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 10 Aug 1865]. This appears to show the 
market hall on the north side of Marshall Street from the wide arch of the
 Headhouse/Police Station.     
The illustrations above show the head house which fronted the 1853 market hall and its interior. Like the First Market Hall in the Shockoe Creek Valley, rebuilt at the same time, it housed the police station and had a cupola and bell on the roof, looking not unlike the arched tower at the First Market. The elegant structure was designed as a two-story, classically organized loggia, with a parapet roof. It took the classic form of the medieval/Renaissance town hall or broletto, where a meeting hall for local government was superimposed over an arcaded market at ground level.  By 1889, it was surrounded by a projecting canopy (see the Sanborn Map above).
The Tholsel, Town Hall, Kilkenny, Republic of Ireland, 1761 

Witney Town Hall and Market, Whitney, Oxfordshire, England, 1770s

 The city built a new Second Market Hall or Sixth Street Meat Market, a modern sanitary facility, in 1886 on the site of the c 1817 market house.It was built by Joseph Heppert [Virginia Calvacade Spring 1956]. The regular pilasters (supporting a memorable series of bull's heads), the battered stone water table, and the segmental arched openings are remarkably similar to the Third Market building of 1892 seen below.  

The new Sixth Street Market Hall of 1886 [Valentine Richmond History Center]

Sixth Street looking south with northern part of market, including hucksters to right and the rebuilt "head house" with cupola at left. The meat market can be seen beyond [Library of Congress].
The head house/police station at the Second or Sixth Street Market was rebuilt in the late nineteenth century. The north section of the market with the head house, cupola, and bell, is seen in a pre-1909 postcard above.
According to a contemporary article, the city's three markets expanded in the last two decades of the twentieth century. In 1900, the First Market at 17th Street produced $9,000 in revenue, the Second Market at Sixth Street between $7,000 and $8,000, and the Third, located in the city's West End, only $1,000. In 1895, the city ceased taxing vendors from outside the city limits and substituted a modest sanitary tax from those who left behind dirt or trash. The Sixth Street Market, being centrally located, was the most popular. 

By 1900, most of the population purchased foodstuffs in the city's three markets, rather than from itinerant street-vendors.  They made  many of their purchases from from the huckster, who, according to the terms in use at the time, was "the regular dealer, who rents his stall in the market by the month, and has an established trade at a small scale." The "truck gardener, who sells from his cart his own home-raised productions," made up the other major class of vendors [The Markets of Richmond: When They were Established and How They Pay, unidentified newspaper, 10 Feb. 1900, files, The Valentine].   

The Sixth Street market was long regarded, from the point of view of white visitors, as one of Richmond's most colorful points of interest.  Indeed, it probably served as the principal public intersection between the races. Articles written in the 1950s, as the market was failing, document the importance of the city's markets in the eyes of both vendors and customers. 

While the meat and fish were indoors, the exterior of the market served as a large and popular flower market. It drew national attention as a busy market for Christmas greens in the winter. The market provided a popular subject for artists, including illustrator William Sheppard in 1875, local color painter Margaret Dashiell in the teens and twenties, Teresa Pollack in the 1930s, and Bell Worsham in 1956. The drawings usually show white patrons passing through the picturesque and clamorous setting of the market.

William Sheppard, Selling Christmas Greens, Harper's Weekly, Cover for
the Christmas edition, 1875. The Sixth Street market in in the background.
Teresa Pollack, corner of Sixth and Marshall streets, 1930
[Virginia Calvacade, Spring, 1956.]

A contemporary "local color" piece by columnist George Rogers describes the vendors, mostly elderly black women, who "sat crunched on boxes or leg stools, clustered around an old lard tin or iron kettle from which heat radiated from . . . charcoal or small stubs of wood. Their lower limbs were wrapped in old bed quilts, horse blankets or any available protection. On their bodies were all the clothes they possessed, supplemented with a couple of masculine coats and vests. The head covering was either an old straw hat or a felt hat that had withstood several years of usage, and protruding from the headgear were several pig tails decorated in red or white braid. The finishing touch of the makeup was a short-stem corn cob pipe from which curling smoke indicated the vendor was in business" [George W. Rogers, News Leader 24 Nov. 1956]. 

Another nostalgic writer recalled how "for generations that stretch back into the closing antebellum years, city dwellers have been able to observe the cycle of the seasons in the appearance and subsequent absence of blooms and plants. Throughout the procession of these hundreds of seasons, negro women have sat in this scene, an invariable fixture in theses colorful banks of blossom. . . . Hucksters from the nearby countryside hopefully exhibit their home-grown vegetables in the same market area. Time was when these men came into town before daybreak, riding in open or covered wagons or two-wheeled covered Hanover carts. Once arrived, they built fires on the street to take the bit from frosty mornings" [Richmond's Flowering Second Market, Virginia Calvacade, Spring 1956].

1909 Market and Armory at Sixth and Marshall streets, same view as the 

Leslie's Weekly view from 1865 seen above

Second Market- Detail of 1924-5 Sanborn Map of Marshall between 
6th and 7th Streets. It shows the Armory Building to the north and the Meat
 Market to the north of Marshall Street.
Mid-20th c view of Sixth Street Market shoppers and vendors, no date,
from Sanford, Richmond, 1975

  The town hall form, of a market with a civic meeting room above, was reiterated there when, in 1909, when a new, appropriately castellated Market and Armory was built on the same site. The market function was enclosed at the ground floor and the upper floor was dedicated to public events and the use of the Richmond Light Infantry Blues as an armory. The Sixth Street Market operated in this building until it was uprooted for the construction of the Sixth Street Marketplace development in 1985. The market function here was made visually secondary to the military. 

Terra cotta bull's head from the Second (Sixth Street) Meat Market as

reused at Seventeenth Street 

An article in the Richmond News Leader on 14 February, 1956 recounted the story of the Sixth Street Market. The city wanted the site of the Meat Market for a new parking lot to support downtown shopping. The 17 stalls were at that time rented by  total of six vendors and three stalls in the dilapidated building were vacant. The 1886 Meat Market was demolished and two of the ornamental bull's heads were placed at the Seventeenth Street Market. It was, sadly, demolished in the 1964 to make way for a multi-story parking garage. 

The Second or Sixth Street Market area from Broad, 2nd 1/4 20th c., 
showing the Blues Armory at rear with the Meat Market 
in front of it with the terra cotta bull's heads visible along 
the top of the facade [Sanford 1975]

Market halls declined in importance as time passed. Their function was transformed in the late nineteenth century by the development of new technologies for the production and preservation of food and new concerns for hygiene. These changes, coupled with the growth of truck farming and neighborhood grocery stores, in the words of Bryan Clark Green, "removed the market house from the economic, administrative, and social center of Virginia's towns."  

Third Market, Richmond Virginia [VCU Archives]

As a result of the growth of population in the western end of the city, the city planned, in 1881, a third market for the area known as Sydney (today's Fan District). The Richmond Third Market hall was built on West Main Street in the early 1890s, designed by Richmond architect Marion J. Dimmock. Like its predecessors, it took the traditional form of an arcaded market, only on a much more ambitious scale. Like the one-story Sixth Street Meat Market of 1886, which it closely resembled, the Third Market Hall consisted of a single, large open room lit and ventilated by a prominent roof monitor. 

The market did not, however, prosper at the Sydney location and was closed in 1906. It  was converted for use in the following year as a civic assembly hall, with the addition of a vestibule, dressing rooms, and a rostrum. It was known as the City Auditorium until it was replaced by the Mosque in 1928. It was rehabilitated by Virginia Commonwealth University as a gym in 1981, expanded in 2009 as the Cary Street Recreational Center. 


  1. Really nice post. Thanks. I haven't had time to work on my own post, making this extra fun.

  2. Is there any way you could connect me with a source on Thomas Jefferson's impact on the city's layout and design?

    1. Thanks for the comment and question, Jess- I have not found that anyone seems to have gotten the story entirely right. John W. Reps, in his Tidewater Towns, is the basic source. He identifies the c. 1780 map for the basic grid of Shockoe Hill found among Jefferson papers as drawn by Jefferson. It actually is most likely a tracing of the 1760s plat for the town of Shockoe used by Jefferson as his base map for altering the undifferentiated grid to incorporate the proposed governmental buildings. My paper on the capital [http://urbanscalerichmondvirginia.blogspot.com/2011/05/richmond-as-provincial-capitol.html] cites some other important sources, but it appears that the story has not been fully explored.