The Market – Charleston, South Carolina
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The market that fronts Meeting Street and extends east along North and South Market Streets in Charleston was built on land donated by the Pinckney family in 1788. Built on a filled-in creek, the market was likely constructed around 1807, the same year the city adopted an ordinance for operating a “Centre Market” at this site. While many people incorrectly refer to the market as the “slave market,” slaves were never sold here, though they were sold in other markets in town such as the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street.
The market consists of three large open-air sheds (shown above and below), an enclosed shed with shops, and the two-story Market Hall, a Greek Revival building designed and built by noted architect E.B. White in 1841. Market Hall is the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Charleston chapter and the Confederate Museum.
Images of bull and sheep skulls in the Market Hall frieze advertised that meat was the primary good sold in these outdoor sheds. Because unsold meat had to be discarded at the end of the day, and butchers also had to dispose of scraps, vultures populated the market area and kept the streets clean of rancid meat. Residents gave the scavengers the nickname of “Charleston Eagles” because of their invaluable benefit, and they were awarded protection by law.
The Pinckneys stipulated that this property always be used for a market, and today the market’s four adjoining sheds serve as a prominent destination for visitors and locals who come to patronize numerous vendors selling everything from fine Charleston art to famous sweetgrass baskets.
Sweetgrass baskets are almost identical in style to the shukublay baskets of Sierra Leone, where learning to coil baskets “so tightly they could hold water” was an important rite of passage in West African tribes like the Mende and the Temne. This basket-making tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century by way of West African slaves who were brought to America to work on plantations. West Africa resembles South Carolina in both climate and landscape, and rice had long been cultivated there. In slaves, plantation owners gained not only free labor but also a wealth of knowledge and skill.
The Market is listed in the National Register:
(The Market) The Market Hall is considered one of Charleston’s best examples of the Greek Revival style. The Market Hall is of Roman Temple form with one high story over a rusticated lower open arcade. Building materials are stucco on brick with sandstone trim. The tetrastyle Roman Doric columns of the portico help support the elaborate entablature and pediment. Bucrania and ram’s heads are located in the metopes. Cast iron rails are located on the double flight of steps that lead to the main floor of the building. Although small, the Hall is imposing as it stands above and at the head of a long arcade of market stalls. The hall was designed by Edward B. White in 1841, who practiced in Charleston from 1842-1879.
The Market Info
Address: 188 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401
GPS Coordinates: 32.780736,-79.931399
The Market Map
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