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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 People on the Move The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 Americans Adopt the Auto Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Center Market The New Market System Farm to Market City Streetscapes Fares, Please! Growth of the Capital's Suburbs
4: A  Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900

Center Market

Like many big cities, Washington, D.C., had several large markets where residents shopped daily for foodstuffs. Center Market, Washington’s largest, was built in 1871. Located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., (where the National Archives stands today), the market covered two city blocks in the heart of Washington’s business district.

'City of Washington. Bird’s-eye View from the Potomac—Looking North,' by Currier & Ives, 1892
"City of Washington. Bird’s-eye View from the Potomac—Looking North," by Currier & Ives, 1892
B Street facade of Center Market, Washington, D.C.
B Street facade of Center Market, Washington, D.C.

Farmers from outlying parts of the District and from nearby Maryland and Virginia rented Center Market's cheaper outside stalls and sold their produce to city residents.

Going Marketing

Center Market opened early in the morning and usually closed by mid-afternoon, except on Saturday, when it was open all day. Different classes of people visited the market from all parts of the city. The best (and most expensive) produce and meats sold early. As the day went on, prices and quality lessened.

Center Market interior, Washington, D.C.
Center Market interior, Washington, D.C.

The approximately 700 dealers who rented space on the ground floor of the Center Market sold both local produce and foods from around the region, the nation, and the world. With the growth of railroads and commercial farming, more and more people were able to buy oranges, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables that were previously unavailable or too expensive.

Center Market, Washington, D.C., about 1910
Although Center Market was built in 1871, the square operated as a marketplace from 1801 until 1931, when the National Archives building was erected in its place.
Center Market, Washington, D.C., about 1910
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