Saturday, February 15, 2014

Court Street Market - Since 1829

Stumbling across pictures of Court Street in the 1920s got me thinking about the Court Street Market. When was it built? When did the market building come down? When did the street markets close? So many questions I just had to answer.
Undated photo of the Court Street Market. The market house can be seen on the far right. Source
Court Street Market was started in 1829, according to this site, however the name was originally Canal Market, since it was located just one block south of the Miami Canal (present day Central Parkway). This made it very convenient for market sellers to gather there produce, meat and other goods to bring to their stands. According to and confirmed by Avril-Bleh Marketplace and Delhi, there were tunnels that ran under the market for a "pig run" to deliver to the butchers. These tunnels also served as a place to hide during the Courthouse Riots of 1884.
The "e" is the Canal Market Building.
Map of the city of Cincinnati / from actual survey by Joseph Gest, city surveyor, 1838; engraved by Wm. Haviland.
While the market building stood between Vine and Walnut Streets, all of Court Street from Central Avenue to Main Street was once lined with market booths, selling all kinds of goods and produce. The market building was a common meeting place, with many political meetings mentioned in the newspapers.

Canal Market at right
1869 Titus Map - Source
Court Street Market, looking west from Walnut - Source
1891 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source
By the turn of the 20th century, some residents wanted to limit the amount of street markets available. By 1912, the market building was declared a health hazard by the city and it was finally torn down in 1915.
Cincinnati Enquirer; Apr 24, 1915; pg. 18
Cincinnati Enquirer; May 2, 1915; pg. 13
1930 Sanborn Insurance Map - Source

Market Stands at the southwest corner of Vine and Court Streets - Source
Even though the market house was demolished, the stands lining the sidewalks remained for many years. In 1962, the Cincinnati Post & Time-Star published an article about the Court Street Market and noted there were still a few produce stands on the south side of the street, and the market was open just Tuesday and Thursdays.

1929, Court Street, looking east from Vine. The former market house stood where the cars are parked.  Source
Oct. 3, 1929, Court Street, looking east from Vine, after street improvements were completed. Source
Oct. 3, 1929, Court Street, looking west from Walnut, after street improvements were completed. Source

In 1988, an effort was made by the city to spruce up the Court Street Market by renovating the sidewalk areas, the parking island and adding signs and a bell tower:
Cincinnati Post: Nov.25, 1987; pg. 3b
However, by 2003 only one vegetable vendor remained on Tuesdays and Thursdays as the city's attention turned to renovating Findlay Market. If you happen to visit one of the many businesses still open on Court Street, you will still see the remnants of the once bustling market.
Court Street, looking west from Walnut. The reconstructed bell tower can be seen here. Source - Google Streetview, 2012
2013, Digging Cincinnati History


  1. Very interesting! I always wondered what this space was all about and was unaware that it once held a full blown market.

  2. Hello Kris: I lived on Court Street in the 60s, as a young married student. From Vine Street to Main, just like in the old days...there were vegetable and fruit vendors lining the streets nearly every day of the week. Poultry, dairy and bread stores, including specialty stores like homemade candies and Italian and Greek grocers, German also....had their own businesses in the buildings lining the street. It was part of the reason for the appeal to live there. Today, it's a desolate shadow of what was. But still authentic enough for part of the Cate Blanchett movie (March-April-May '14) to be shot in the building I used to live in, it was so Doscher's French Chew building. We were thrilled. Indeed, it was a sweet street.

  3. Does anyone have any old photos of 1 east court st? The Union Optical is on the first floor, my family & I have lived on the 2nd & 3rd floor above the Optical store for 20 years I was always curious about the history of this building & finding some old photos

  4. My family & I have lived at 1 east court st on the second & third floor above the Union Optical Plan since 1996, I've always been curious about this buildings past does anyone have any old photos of 1 east court? The only information I know is that it was built in 1875.


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