Farmer's Markets are in the news this morning--July 20, 2011--and with the Barr Street Market running every Saturday morning until September 10, we thought you'd like to know a little bit about the history of this downtown jewel.
The Barr Street Market, named for John T. Barr, is one of the oldest and best-known features of downtown Fort Wayne. The town of Fort Wayne actually was born on Oct. 23, 1823 when Barr and his partner platted the land they had bought for the city.
Samuel Hanna eventually assumed most of Barr’s Fort Wayne properties and the land for the market was donated in 1837 by Hanna.
The Barr Street Market was based on the design of the Philadelphia Market. The Barr Street Market was a central feature for the provisioning of Fort Wayne as a growing trade and industrial settlement.
James Humphrey and Henry Nierman were awarded the contract in 1855 for a new brick market house. The building was notable for its squat square tower topped by an onion-shaped cupola. In 1892, when Fort Wayne’s first real city hall was erected, the old market house was torn down.
Market Masters were named by the city to operate the market. Among them was Peter Kiser, one of the more interesting characters of mid-19th-century Fort Wayne. Peter Kiser was physically impressive, weighing more than 300 pounds and standing well over six feet tall.
He established the city's first butcher shop in 1832 and came to hold considerable political power, despite the fact that he could neither read nor write.
In 1910, at a cost of $20,000, the outdoor market was given its greatest embellishment -- concrete pavilions joining arches between the City Hall and Washington Boulevard. A pointed double- gothic arch made of iron was erected over Wayne Street, connecting the two market pavilions.
In the first decades of the 20th century, the market saw its best years. City Hall next to the market was the site of city police and ambulance service that operated out of the back doors. The arrival of the full patrol wagon at the police station or the detention of a rowdy always made for an interesting diversion from ordinary market business.
Less appetizingly, the bloodied stretchers of the ambulance service were dutifully scrubbed at the convenient catch basin at the end of the market near the meat and dairy stalls.
The pavilion nearest to City Hall was razed in 1957. In 1958, the Wayne to Washington Street pavilion was destroyed. The market remained idle until 1966, when the Barr Street Market Association was formed to revitalize outdoor trade in downtown.
The History Center acquired the Barr Street Market in 1990. Today, the Barr Street Market is open Saturday mornings from July to September and is presented by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana in cooperation with The History Center.
Admission to the History Center is free when the market is open.