Lancaster Central Market is the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the United States with fresh produce being sold here since the 1730s when it was legitimized by official decree from the King of England himself.
When the city of Lancaster was first founded as Hickory Town, town planner James Hamilton created a 120-foot square space to serve as a centrally located marketplace. In fact, he deeded the ground for the “keeping, erecting and holding a market” in 1730.
The marketplace was officially chartered by King George II on May 1, 1742, officially designating Lancaster as a market town.
When the open-air market was first opened, hucksters paid 10 shillings for a license. They were only allowed to sell produce or other food products. If other items were sold, their license could be revoked.
There is evidence that there were more than 400 stands at one point.
By the late 1800s, there were wagons and horses everywhere, which meant flies in the summer and lots of mud when it rained. For comfort and sanitary reasons, a new market building was passed so that produce could be taken inside while animals were left outside.
In 1889 the building we today recognize as Central Market was built. John Berger constructed the red brick Romanesque Revival building featuring two towers using a design by James H. Warner.
The market shows robust features of the asymmetrical style composition, massive sense of walls, the repetitive use of arches and ornament sculptured in both stone and terra cotta. The checkered pattern of white and brownstones in the gable lightens the austere dignity of the dark red brick and brownstone. It is likely the best-known example of the Romanesque Revival in the county.
The Central Market building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1972.