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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Customers and vendors - 19th century view
19th Century view of vendors and customers at Soulard Market Swekosky Photo Collection, School of Notre Dame

Soulard Farmer's Market (St. Louis)

The last surviving public market in St. Louis, Soulard Farmer's Market is named for Julia Cerre Soulard, who donated the land specifically for use as a marketplace in 1838. The first structure was built on the site in 1843 by a private joint venture of farmers/vendors, who sold shares to build a one-story red brick building on the eastern of the two half blocks. During the Civil War years the local military commander declared martial law throughout the city. The grounds of Soulard Market were pressed into duty as a military encampment of pro-Union guards, charged with enforcing martial law. Since then the market has had a long and varied history, through tornado damage, urban beautification during the "City Beautiful" movement of 1909-11, the construction of a new building in 1928-29, the threat of demolition for new development, decline into slum conditions, and comeback beginning in the 1970s.

But the Soulard Market is not without its problems today. The physical facility, now more than 70 years old, is outmoded and inefficient; business is down due to competition from supermarkets and the "hurry-up nature" of our society, which mitigates against a more leisurely market experience. Yet, having met the needs of its surrounding community for inexpensive foods for decades, the Market is a cultural treasure few city residents want to lose. The market can be saved only by positioning itself to cater to the needs of its historical customer base--working class and indigent residents seeking inexpensive foodstuffs--but also by attracting the middle class residents that increasingly make up its neighborhood, looking for an alternative to suburban-style supermarkets.

The Market's history is documented in text, eight black-and-white archival photographs, several slides, and a videotape. A promotional tote bag decorated with a picture of farm produce is also included.

Originally submitted by: Richard A. Gephardt, Representative (3rd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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