Market Houses

Pittsburgh's Southside Market House

Pittsburgh's Southside Market House

Like many of the old market houses, this one is no longer open. At least the building has not been torn down… yet.

As a young boy, my mother used to take me to downtown Pittsburgh for shopping. She always started at the department stores. After purchasing clothing or household items, we’d head for Market Square.

Market Square is still there, but the market houses are long gone.

At one time, where Forbes Avenue intersected with Market Street, there stood a group of buildings that housed the New Diamond Market. As I recall, there was a bridge connecting the second floors of at least two of the buildings.

Those old market houses could be seen as the original malls. Various vendors rented space to set up their retail outlets. There were fish mongers, vegetable stands, butchers, bakers, and maybe even a candlestick maker or two.

If our family budget allowed for it, mom would buy some nice vegetables and meat. She’d also buy smelt if those little fish looked appetizing. Fried smelt was always one of my favorites.

Unfortunately, the people who ran the New Diamond Market were not very good at marketing when it came to competing with the ‘super’ markets being built in the suburbs. Eventually, all the buildings that made up Market Square were abandoned and razed. Now, there is a park that looks nice, but isn’t very functional.

The only thing left is the Original Oyster House.

They do mean 'original'

They do mean 'original'

The awning tells it all. That restaurant has been at that location since 1870. It has expanded… taking over the building to the left of the original structure. The building to the right was once a C.G. Murphy’s Five and Dime. I’m not sure if it’s being refurbished or torn down to make way for something else.

The other place my mother was sure to visit while we were downtown was McCann’s Market. The distinctive feature of that emporium was the automatic bacon slicer that sat in the middle of the store. I used to love watching the bacon being sliced.

Of all the cities I’ve visited in the U.S., I can only recall one that has a vibrant old time market place. Baltimore, Maryland is the home of the Lexington Market. You can visit their web site to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

The Lexington Market has been in continuous operation for more than two hundred and twenty years. Obviously, they do a better job of marketing than the New Diamond Market folks did. Check out their history and their listing of events and you’ll see that they make it a place to go to do far more than shop for poultry, seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables.

In England, France, and many other countries, market places still thrive. Many of them would shatter the confidence of American shoppers because the fresh meats, poultry, and fish are not in nice refrigerated display cases. In some instances, the perishable items aren’t even displayed on beds of ice.

Around Atlanta, they have a few farmer’s markets that offer fresh produce. But it’s not the same. I miss the old market houses where you could find practically any food item imaginable.

I guess I’ll have to plan a visit to Baltimore.


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