In The Spotlight: Lancaster Central Market

Lancaster Central Market- founded in 1730

It is hard to think about visiting Lancaster without also thinking about the massive amount of history it has to offer. Lancaster has been in existence since May 10th, 1729- making it one of the oldest inland cities in the United States. Considering this, it isn’t too hard to believe that Lancaster Market has been one of (if not the longest) consistently running markets in US history.

Since its inception in 1730 as a 120 square foot plot, the market in Lancaster has been an essential resource for a variety of products in the Lancaster County Area. In fact, its importance was so great that by 1742 King George II himself declared that the market was to be held twice a week (today the market is open three days a week- Tuesday and Friday from 6 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 6 am to 2 pm) to continue forward momentum for the area. By the end of 1742 the market was no longer an open plot, but had six permanent stalls built. It wasn’t long before the first permanent structure (an official market building) was created in 1757.

Some fresh butternut squash and other veggies available for purchase
One of the side entrances to the market

While the market continued to adapt and grow over the years, it wasn’t until 1889 that the building we know as the Market House right in the center of town (on the corner of Penn’s Square) was erected. The beautiful brick building was constructed in only 5 months- and has continued to be the meeting grounds and sales place of the Central Market since that time. Over the years, various improvements and some restoration work have occurred… but what is important is that the Lancaster Market has been serving the people of Lancaster since 1730 and in its present setting has been serving Lancastrians since 1889.

Fresh coffee from Mean Cup and a delicious açai bowl from Oola Bowl

Now that the history has been covered you might ask, “Why is Central Market important or relevant today? Isn’t it just a bunch of farmers selling product?”. To that, I may respond, “Why wouldn’t you want to have the freshest local ingredients and products to eat?” 

Unlike many places, at Central Market quality and freshness are two sides of the same coin. Not only do they retain a good portion of their stalls for the old-world goods, but they also include other local shops- such as Rooster Street from Lititz and S Clyde Weaver from East Petersburg. There are also florists, dairy purveyors, coffee makers, and smoothie makers as well. If you wanted to, you could eat and dine as royalty and then leave the market with armfuls of great items. There is even an area for sitting, eating, and drinking upstairs at Central Market where you can look over everything that is happening beneath you with an eagle’s view.

S Clyde Weaver deli meats/cheeses stall (also public restroom sign)

As a meat processor myself, I tend to visit the stalls that offer great values as far as beef, pork, or chicken are concerned. As such, no day is complete without stopping by Stoltzfus Meats, Country Meadow Farms, and Rooster Street to see what the offerings of the day are. Stoltzfus Meats makes wonderful bacon and often have a great deal of inventory when the day starts- so you’ll need to make your way in early to reap the full benefit of their wares. Rooster Street (in the past) has had an eclectic selection; but what they do have is often just what you’ll need to cook up a tasty dinner. Country Meadows, on the other hand, is a provider that focuses on the health conscious consumer. Their offerings include grass-fed, free-range meat and poultry.

Of course, there is also a great deal of other products available from the vendors including: vegetables, organic foods, delicious deserts (pastries, donuts, cakes, you name it and it’s likely there), Italian cuisine, Hispanic specialties, seafood, and fresh fruit to boot! I suppose one may say that it’s hard to find something that ISN’Tat central market- and it’s always FRESH.

Whether you’re a historical buff, someone who appreciates beautiful stonemasonry, an architecturally interested individual, a tourist, a foodie, or even a local who just wants good food it’s hard to say no to the alluring and ever-popular Lancaster Central Market. More or less, if you live in Lancaster County, and of course even more so if you’re from the city, you simply must visit this historic and wonderful location.

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