As cities grow and change over time, cultural icons sometimes fall victim to the march of “progress.” However, one of Cleveland’s most iconic structures, the West Side Market, has remained proudly on the corner of Lorain Avenue and West 25th Street for one-hundred years. Originating with an open air market in 1840, and moving to a permanent structure in its current location in 1912, the structure is one of the oldest public markets in the United States.
Beginning in 1902, funds were put aside and architects Hubbell and Benes were contracted to construct a permanent market space. The building is a Neo-Classical/Byzantine architecture brick structure with large interior spaces for stalls and sellers. On the exterior, a larger clock tower caps the southwest corner of the building and is visible throughout the Ohio City neighborhood where it resides. Walking through the building, underneath the cavernous arched brick ceilings, is like a walk through an idealized Wes Anderson film. Butchered meats and produce sit adjacent to bakeries and dozens of ethnic food stalls reflecting the diverse people that make up the City of Cleveland.
Like many Midwestern cities, Cleveland has suffered population drain as a result of suburbanization. By the mid 20th century, many public markets in urban centers were closing, however, West Side Market has weathered population and economic fluctuations for over one hundred years. Its success lies in part to its location on Cleveland’s near west side. Originally home to German immigrants, and currently hosting a thriving Hispanic neighborhood, the area is now benefiting from an influx of young professionals moving back into the downtown area. Ambitious urban planning has filled the neighborhood with new housing, stores, and most importantly, restaurants. Cleveland has a renowned foodie scene and population growth unprecedented for a Midwestern city. West Side Market has latched on to these new trends without alienating its traditional clientele and has maintained its status as a Cleveland landmark.
How does the public market differ from a standard grocery store? Is it actually a viable alternative to the conventional shopping experience?
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