York Town Square

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York’s Central Market sells steak … and sizzle

A slideshow of black and white images, courtesy of the York County Heritage Trust. Also of interest: York County farm vs. factory tension relieved in overnight raid .

Our recent York Town Square series on York’s markets just scratched the surface on their rich history.

Dave Yates, president of Central Market’s board, gave a detailed speech, “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.” to the York Economics Club in 2001.

The speech is excerpted below:

This morning, I’d like to begin with the history York Central Market and, in order to properly set that stage, we will first need to turn back the hands of time to the year 1754!
In order for the people of our York-Town to begin operation of a center square market, it was necessary to petition the heirs of William Penn, John and Richard Penn, for permission. That Royal decree reads “The inhabitants of the town of York are become so numerous that they find it necessary to have a public market … for the better supplying and accommodating them with goods and wholesome provisions under proper regulations. The proprietor upon the humble request of the inhabitants of York , grants and ordains that they and their successors shall and may forever thereafter hold and keep within the town, in ever week of the year, two market days, the one on Wednesday and the other on Saturday.”
Farmers would gather their wagons in center square to sell their goods and livestock to the public. Changes in population, transportation and industry will effect changes that are evident as York’s agricultural timeline evolves.
According to the USDA “History of American Agriculture;
During these early days of farming, all forms of domestic livestock, except turkeys, had been imported.
Crops borrowed from the Indians included maize, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, gourds, squashes, watermelons, beans, grapes, berries, pecans, black walnuts, peanuts, maple sugar, tobacco, and cotton.
African slaves introduced grain and sweet sorghum, melons, okra and peanuts.
Crops imported from England included clover, alfalfa, timothy, small grains, fruits and vegetables.
Oxen and horses are used for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing is by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay & grain cutting by sickle and threshing with flail.
In 1787, the Town of York was incorporated into a Borough. In 1788, the greater York area, a radius of ten miles around the square, had a population of just 2,884 inhabitants.
By 1790, the countries population had grown to 3,929,214 and farmers made up 90% of the labor work force! The Appalachians were our western boundary to the frontier! Rapid changes were taking place in farming technology. The cotton gin in 1793 and the cast iron plow in 1797 to name but two. By 1799, a few parts of our western frontier had by now crossed the Appalachians.
By 1800, just two years later, the country’s population had mushroomed to 25,643 and the Borough of York had a population of 2,503.
Following the turn of the new century, transportation was seeing rapid evolution. Fulton had tested his steamboat in 1807 on the banks of our own Codorus. The era of toll road construction that was enjoying tremendous growth at that time would last into the 1830s. Cotton had begun to replace tobacco as the chief cash crop of the South.
The 1830s saw revolutionary changes in transportation, farm technology and population shifts towards industrial occupations.
· At the beginning of the railroad era, Peter Cooper’s railroad steam engine the “Tom Thumb” runs 13 miles.
· 250 – 300 labor-hours are required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat using a walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle and flail.
· 1834 – McCormick Reaper patented and iron plows now faced with steel.
· 1837 – John Deere begins producing steel plows.
· 1838 – Northern Central Railroad reaches York, creating large southern markets for sale of industrial and farming products.
The 1840s were no exception to the continuing changes affecting our farming community. As the Borough of York continued to grow and prosper, plans were drawn up to build market sheds in center square. The first was erected in 1842 and was followed with another in 1844. The one on the western side of the square included a cellar that was used for the official lock-up by the police! At long last, the residents of York Borough could enjoy shopping in a more sanitary environment that offered a shelter from inclement weather.
In the 1840s:
· Total population is now 17,069,453.
· Farm population is 9,012,000.
· Farmers now comprise 69% of the labor work force.
· Agricultural journal subscriptions top 100,000.
· Growing acceptance and use of factory-made machines increases farming production and creates a need for agricultural loans, which encourages commercial farming.
· 1842 – first grain elevator in Buffalo, NY.
· 1844 – The telegraph revolutionizes communication.
· Also in 1844 – The first practical mowing machine is invented and man’s weekends are never to be the same!
· 1845 – Great potato famine increases immigration.
· 1849 – Gold Rush fever strikes it rich.
The Glorious ’50s!
· 1850 greater York area population reaches 57,450, York Borough 6,963.
· In 1855, Pennsylvania passed legislation establishing The Farmer’s High School, which would later become The Pennsylvania State College.
· The first commercial corn and wheat belts begin to emerge. Wheat is forced west as land values rise in the east.
· Steam and clipper ships provide bustling business to nearby sea ports.
· 75-90 labor hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2½ acres) with walking plow, harrow and hand planting.
· USA population is now 23,191,786.
· Farm population 11,680,000.
· Farmers comprise 64% of the labor force.
· Number of farms 1,449,000 & average 203 acres in size.
The dizzy ’60s:
· Kerosene lamps become popular.
· 30,000 miles of railroad track have been laid.
· Cotton belt moves westward as the corn belt stabilizes.
· Cattlemen ride herd over farmers in the west.
· 1862 – First American revolution in farming takes place as horse power replaces man power in the fields.
· 1863 – Confederate Troops occupy York!
· 1865 – Gang plows are introduced.
· 1866 – Penn Street Market opens – first competition for market sheds.
· 1868 – Steam tractors become popular.
· 1869 – The Union Pacific Railroad opens the first trans-continental railroad.
· Total population now at 31,443,321.
· Farm population is 15,141,000.
· Farmers comprise 58% of the labor force. See a trend here?
· Number of farms are 2,044,000 and average 199 acres in size.
The 1870s:
· York High open its doors.
· 1874 – barbed wire patented, which ends open grazing in the west.
· 1878 – York City Market opens.
· 1878 – Refrigerated rail cars are introduced, silos become popular and deep wells can now be drilled.
· Total population now 38,558,371.
· Farm population now 18,373,000.
· Farmers comprise 53% of the labor force.
· Number of farms reaches 2,660,000 & average 153 acres in size.
York’s center square market sheds are showing their age. Sanitation has become lax and these sheds now draw unsavory characters, homeless who are often found sleeping on the butcher blocks where fresh meats are cut and a haven for those who have imbibed a wee bit too much as the sleep off the night’s revelry. A lack of sanitary facilities leads to foul odors. These foul sheds now drew the ire of York’s 1880 burgeoning population, now at 13,940 and two factions arose – those in favor of the market sheds destruction and those in favor of keeping them alive. Both sides were becoming very vocal and local politics were to become embroiled in this controversial issue.
Here is a poem of unknown authorship from that era:
Old York is builded, both high and wide on both banks of the Codorus tide; which sweeps in dread majesty on toward the sea, bearing filth from the pulp mills and city debris.
Old York is a place of wondrous renown, as a cleanly and quiet, synunevilcal town. And the fame of its industries, what’er they be, has spread to both worlds and the isles of the sea.
Old York has buildings, both massive and light, well fitted to cause, o’en a critic delight. Its courthouse and prison – from Haviland’s hand, can contend for the palm, with the best in the land.
Then, there are the building of later style, like the new city market – a wondrous pile, or the mercantile building, so fair to behold, where merchants and lawyers turn gas into gold.
But all the fine structures, which I might name, are distanced and made to look wondrously tame, when compared with that stately old pile in the square, the Old Borough Market Sheds – offers beware.
Just who was the architect, nobody knows, and nobody cares, except when it snows or rains. Then the vagrants and dogs lay about, on the butcher blocks, whence fresh beef is dealt out.
That this is offensive, no one will deny. And all world rejoice, if t’were blown high and dry. But the wise Borough Fathers say, t’is for our good. And tell me my friend, if they don’t know, who should.
The roofs of this structure, which first catch the eye, are not very broad, nor yet very high. They’re covered with tin, and shaped like an egg, to make them look handsome, they painted them red.
Iron columns support the diminutive arch, under which the best burghers of York often march. The floor is half brick, the other half boards, and neath the latter, the station house roads.
‘Tis said that a Roe, once, flew over the town, and seeing the shed roofs, began to come down. It thought they were eggs, and ne’er found its mistake, till the trumps ‘gan to cuss and the rats got awake.
Strangers have said, on coming to town, that t’was Noah’s old ark, turned upside down. While a near sighted drover, would straightaway declare, the Motter House stock sheds were moved to the square. (Credit: Yuan Pay App)
That was quite a send-up of the sheds and a nice bit of early political satire! But York Borough was now rapidly expanding and the author mentions York’s newly constructed City Market, which was built in 1878 and designed by York architect J. A. Dempwolf. The interior construction was Gothic style hammer-beam, which gave it the appearance of a grand cathedral. Dempwolf was to be given many honors by various architectural publications. Rumors circulated that the City Market was haunted because it had been built over top of a small graveyard. But this was not York’s first enclosed market house and had been preceded by the Penn Street Farmer’s Market in 1866. Eastern Market was constructed in 1885 and was blown down in a violent storm on January 9th, 1889 and promptly rebuilt
York becomes a City on January 11th, 1887. Newly elected Mayor, Daniel K. Noell recognizes that the surrounding market buildings, Penn, City & Eastern, have eroded the center-city market shed customer base; that these sheds have become an eyesore; are referred to as The Gunboats derisively because of their resemblance to Civil War Ironclad Warships; have become a shelter and rendezvous for old cronies; a lodging house for homeless souls; are unsanitary, filthy and assault the senses with “sweet odours”; and serve as a way station for those who need to sleep off the night’s drinking binge. In short, Mayor Noell wants these sheds destroyed and an enclosed market house befitting the City of York constructed.
Electric lighting, which first appeared in York in 1885, has now been wired into most homes. Our new Mayor finds his “select” council deadlocked 5-5 on the demolition issue. His “common” council, on the other hand stands ready to sign on for the sheds demise at any time he decides.
The game is afoot!
I have no doubt secretive meetings were being held and plans laid for a new market house. Dempwolf would have been a logical choice because of his previous architectural triumph in the City Market design.
A tentative deadline was set by Mayor Noell of July 4th, 1887 as the date when demolition should be initiated. However, when council met on June 29th, a Monday, a member of the Select committee was absent due to illness. He had been in favor of keeping the sheds. Seizing this opportunity, a vote was quickly taken and the resolution to demolish the sheds passed 5-4! Mayor Noell immediately had the Common council pass favorable judgement.
But what was the Mayor to do with the two prisoners in the basement lock-up? Noell called upon Sheriff Grenewald and had him sign an agreement to assume care of the prisoners. Next came a call on William Link, the highway commissioner, whereupon Mayor Noell signed the order and placed the demolition into Link’s hands.
Highway Commissioner Link quickly arranged for two six horse & mule teams owned by Charles Winter and Phillip Winter, along with many hands and they began demolition at 2:00 AM the next morning!
Confusion reigned among townsfolk awake or awakened by the racket and several threats were made regarding arrests for damaging public property. Self appointed committees frantically searched for local judges to have an injunction filed. However, one Judge was in Atlantic City and the other at a party being held on the country estate of George Small. That the judges would be out of town was known to the Mayor and highway commissioner Link.
Someone pulled the fire alarm and now fire crews with equipment arrived on the carnival-like scene. A local dentist, Dr. James A. Dale, seized an axe from the fire apparatus and took a mighty swing at one of the market shed’s wooden pillars. Unfortunately, his blow was off the mark and, instead, struck the iron support, which caused the axe to rebound with a large piece chipped out of its blade, striking a fierce blow to his own head, and the good Doctor lay sprawling in the street – unconscious! In the commotion, he lay stricken while those passing simply stepped over him as they joined in the fray.
Long before evening of that same day, it was said that not enough material remained to make a fire in a kitchen stove.
York Central Market – “Yesterday”
And so it is that York Central Market was born out of the controversy created by the demolition of the center city market sheds in 1887. York architect J. A. Dempwolf was contracted to design the new center city market house. He settled upon a very unusual “L” shaped, Neo-Romanesque style design that included five towers. Construction proceeded at a very rapid pace and shipwrights from Baltimore, as had been done during the City Market construction, were brought in to raise the massive timbers into place. Construction costs totaled $45,000.00. York Central Market opened its doors for public inspection on December 11th, 1888. The following morning, vendors began “standing”, as it became known, at market. As with the market sheds, a Pennsylvania government blessing was required for operation as evidenced in this “Letters Patent” granting York Central Market’s owners, the twelve stockholders listed here, the right to legitimately conduct business. This document was a pleasant discovery during my research at The York County Heritage Trust and was folded to fit in an envelope. They have now moved it to their important documents section, where it will be preserved opened and flat for inspection.
One 1888 newspaper stated “The new Centre Market building, one of the most complete and magnificent market structures in the state of Pennsylvania, was thrown open for inspection of the public last night. It was heated by stoves and illuminated by electric light and presented a brilliant and imposing appearance. Hundreds of people visited and admired the new market, and promenaded through the place during the evening.”
One thing that was of particular interest to me during this research was to discover York Central Market was ahead of the curve regarding plumbing. An indoor bathroom, very unusual for this period in US history, was constructed in the south-east corner. Given that this was our only restroom, it would also have been a uni-sex facility! A sewer bond in the amount of $500.00 was paid to the City of York for the privilege of constructing a sewer line to the creek. Although that sewer line was later abandoned when York City’s central sewage collection and treatment began, the brick-lined manhole (no longer in use) remains at the juncture of Beaver and Philadelphia streets.
I wondered what life must have been like in those days as vendors and customers went to market until I found this letter from Mrs. Ada Miller tucked away in one of the York Heritage Trust files.
She writes: (copied as written)
We drove to market in a spring wagon, with one horse in the small one and two horses in the larger one, a closed wagon, with a door on each side, that slides to open instead of gates, a windshield in the dash, could be pulled up in cold weather, also we took horse Blankets along to cover the horses, while we were at market, until we left for home, after market. As we drove to town, we had to pay toll, one at which is now Tollgate Shopping Center, we paid five cents, another one half way down the queen street hill, if we went by Powder mill road it was 2 cents but that road got muddy with ruts and bad in winter, that one was just below the now York Hospital. The queen st pike was liked and better traveling, at 2 o’clock the bell rang and market was open for anyone to buy, over about 5 or later.
The market house was hot in summer, no fans and cold in winter, in severe weather, some things froze on our stands such as celery etc. Central Market had four Pot Bellied stoves, scattered through the market, you got warmed at the stove, then went back to your stand. Almost froze, Had to dress for it. Four buckled artics. leggends and two pair of underware, sweaters scarfs and heavy clothes. Most everyone came to market with baskets, potatoes apples etc were measured with ¼ pk or ½ peck measure and then poured right in the baskets, no shopping bags yet. Some paper bags for eggs etc. for wrapping paper we used newspaper such as celery and some bunched vegetables, except for meat and other products we had other wrapping paper. Many products were taken to market in bushel boxes others were boxes made of wood.
My parents were Country Butcher’s in winter, killed pork for market, made sausage, Bologna summer sausage, cured hams and bacon, which were smoked in a smokehouse, made many other products of pork. Then in spring and summer strawberries Raspberries Etc all kinds of vegetables, fruit, apples, pears, peaches, cherries. Vegetables, all kinds, all home grown. Very little food products were shipped in. No super markets, but quite a few corner grocery stores in the city. This was probably before the (teens) got our first auto 1912 a Reo. About 1915, got a truck, but the roads were not built for them and in rough weather had to still, use horses most everyone came to market by Street cars or walked, in the city before we had auto’s. Then when the flu epidemic came about 1918 market was opened earlier, no bell rang and people came earlier, an open market continued until it became a morning market for many years more.
In the early years, we youngsters were told, you can go along to market that was a great day for us, we got at market an ice cream cone, a glass of home made root beer, this was a treat as we had no refrigerator or freezer’s then at home, it was a day off. Sometimes our parents stopped at the ice house, brought along home 50 lbs of ice, made home made ice cream. The ice cream freezer held about 2 gallons this was usually a Saturday evening covered the ice cream freezer real good and had some ice cream left for Sunday.
Many changes and improvements through the years.
But there were other purposes served by the Central Market building. With its large and open construction, Central Market was able to accommodate large crowds. A number of these occurred in the late 1880s, when the Christian Endeavor Society rented Central Market, moved out all of the tables, replaced them with chairs and held revival services. There were 5,000 people seated with an estimated 1,000 additional standing inside the market house!
· 1899 saw the development of an improved method for anthrax inoculation!
The early 1900’s saw a period of farm prosperity until the collapse of agricultural prices in 1920. Big open geared tractors were prevalent until the development of light tractors in 1926.
By 1930:
· one farmer now supplied 9.8 persons.
· 15-20 labor-hours were required to produce 100 bushels (2½ acres) of corn with a 2-bottom gang plow, 7-foot tandem disc, 4-section harrow, 2-row planters, cultivators and pickers.
· 54% of all farms have cars; 34% have telephones; & 13% have electricity.
· Total population has reached 122,775,046.
· Farm population is estimated to be 30,455,350.
· Farmers comprise just 21% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 6,295,000 and average 157 acres in size.
· Drought & dust bowl conditions develop.
· Total population has reached 131,820,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 30,840,000.
· Farmers comprise just 18% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 6,102,000 and average 175 acres in size.
· Irrigated acres total 17,942,968.
The 1950’s:
· Total population has reached 151,132,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 25,058,000.
· Farmers comprise just 12.2% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 5,388,000 and average 216 acres in size.
· Irrigated acres total 25,634,869.
A lengthy article ” Would You Like to Taste?”, about the York Central Market, appears in the October 9th, 1954 Saturday Evening Post. Included were pictures including one of Mrs. Ella Markey, 80, standing at market and captioned that she has 81 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She obviously raised more than mere vegetables! The article proclaimed “Food Markets? The sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch are unimpressed by San Francisco, New Orleans or New York. They believe nothing matches their own staggering abundance – including good things to eat those big cities never heard of – offered in the old fashioned way: “Would You Like to Taste?”
The article goes on for many pages and accurately depicts the tremendous variety of goods to be found at market. The author also delves into the many family bonds shared by standholders in all four of the York market houses. But perhaps most importantly, the article points out why a shopping experience at Central Market differs from the antiseptic supermarket environment. It’s the environment and the people friendly vendors along with the abundance of home cooked foods and products straight from the fields that draw more than 20,000 shoppers through the doors during any given week.
The rather graphic description of ponnhawsz, puddin meat and scrapple convince me I have done well to avoid them all these years!
During this period of time, my parent’s introduce me to the charms of York Central Market – powdered doughnuts if I can behave during the visit. I do!
One farmer now supplies 15.5 persons. 70% of farms have cars; 49% telephones & 93% electricity. Television has become widely accepted.
The 1960’s:
· Total population has reached 180,007,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 15,635,000.
· Farmers comprise just 8.3% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 3,711,000 and average 303 acres in size.
· Irrigated acres total 33,829,000.
One farmer now supplies 25.8 persons. 5 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels (3 1/3rd acres) of wheat using a tractor, 12-foot plow, 14-foot drill, 14-foot self-propelled combine and trucks. Mechanical harvesting becomes the standard. 83% of farms now have phones, 98.4% electricity.
Sadly, the 1960’s also saw the demise of York’s City Market following its purchase by Gulf Oil Corporation. A gas station was to take the place of this grand old Dempwolf-designed market house located at the corner of South Duke and Princess Street. The decision was given to one person, a young lawyer, to make and his permitting the destruction of this York City landmark resulted in the formation of the City’s Architectural & Historical Review Board in order that no such similar demise of worthy structures would be permitted to occur in the future.
The 1970’s:
· Total population has reached 204,335,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 9,712,000.
· Farmers comprise just 4.6% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 2,780,000 and average 390 acres in size.
A 1971 Sunday Patriot article dated September 21st titled “York Farmer’s Markets Popular as Ever” includes an explanation for the relatively light customer attendance on early week days. “Tuesdays have been poor sales days since people started putting refrigerators in their homes. Before that, food wouldn’t keep from one Saturday to the next and they came in twice a week to do their shopping. Now they can come in just one day a week and most of them come on Saturday.”
Mary Stephenson, The Sunday News editor of the “York Women’s” section gives York Central Market full page coverage in an article entitled “Market House Vignettes” with numerous pictures. In this July 8th, 1973 edition, Mary goes on to describe the farm vendor’s day and one aspect of her story that indicates a firm direction of things to come leaps off the page:
“The market houses are adapting to the times. Noonday lunch at market is increasingly popular with downtowners. A half sandwich, a half chicken, a mini-pie, fresh homemade cup cake, fresh fruit. No tipping, good food and time left over for a walk outdoors.”
I “rediscover” Central Market as a bachelor and come to know vendors on my own as they share cooking tips and friendly advice.
A 1977 August 20th York Dispatch article notes York Central Market’s inclusion into the Pennsylvania Inventory of Historic Places and that we were also nominated for the National Register of Historic Places which would come in 1988. Included in the article was the pleasant surprise of Market president John P. Connelly and Marketmaster Chester D. Spangler regarding this designation. Spangler indicated that Market was 95% occupied and 85% of the vendors were third or fourth generation standholders!
The 1980s:
· Total population has reached 227,020,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 6,051,000.
· Farmers comprise just 3.4% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 2,439,510 and average 426 acres in size.
· Irrigated acres total 50,350,000.
· Biotechnology becomes a viable technology for improving crop and livestock.
2-3/4 labor-hours are required to produce 100 bushels (1-1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 25-foot tandem disc, planter, 25-foot herbicide applicator, 15-foot self-propelled combine and trucks.
A July 2nd York Sunday News article entitled “Taking stock at market”, predicts a grim future for what the market will look like in ten years. “Will its isles still be filled with small, family-run produce stands and meat counters?” The lack of current farmer’s children and high paying jobs at Caterpillar are cited as reasons for the decline in new generations of traditional standholders. The long hours, hard work and low pay of farming are keeping their children from following the family traditions. “The rewards of farm life – like the satisfaction of seeing things grow and having happy customers – make it a good life, despite the long hours.” said Cindy Fitz. But, she also says she knows there aren’t many children of farmers who feel the same way.
July 14th, 1989, York Central Market becomes the first local farmer’s market to accept the Women, Infants and Children coupons for produce. Also known as the WIC’s program, this is a state-wide three-year effort to help revitalize farmer’s markets. Cheese, milk, eggs, juices, fruits, peanut butter, dry beans, peas and cereals become produce items eligible under the WIC program. The coupons may only be used for Pennsylvania grown products.
In July of 1988, the contention between Central Market Vendors and our neighbor, the Strand – Capitol Performing Arts Center erupts over the common alley being blocked during the loading & off loading performance stage sets. Strand – Capitol director Clyde Lindsley proves his adeptness at being a good neighbor ensuing years to come by bending over backwards to work with the central Market. Although conflicts will arise in the future, Clyde always manages to keep a cool head and his pleasant demeanor serves all parties well.
On August 14th, A Sunday News article broaches the subject of additional days and hours at Central Market.
“Several vendors are discussing opening the Markethouse five days a week.
Charles Brunner, president of the Market Vendor’s Association says the idea is not new, nor is it definite.” A number of vendors are opposed to the idea. Board members could not be reached for comment.
An article appearing in the Lancaster “Intelligencer Journal” on October 19th, compares the operations of Lancaster’s City owned Central Market to York’s privately owned Central Market. It is noted that:
· Operating expenses are higher at Lancaster’s market.
· Market rents are lower in York.
· York’s market, at 42,000 square feet, is twice as big and pays city taxes. Lancaster’s does not.
· Standholders in Lancaster are required to attend, the number of spaces rented is limited. In York, no such rules apply.
· A Lancaster standholder complains that even on his best day at Lancaster Central Market, his income is half that of a good day at York Central Market.
1988 – A group of York Central Market vendors, upset over parking issues with the City, the Strand – Capitol and the Market Board stage a near walk-out on this, the market’s 100th anniversary. Tensions rise to a fever pitch and an April 18th emergency meeting is held at the Jewish Community Center, 120 East Market Street. Over sixty market patrons speak along with several market vendors as City and Board members listen attentively to their concerns. A tenuous peace settles and business returns to normal.
York Central Market – “Today”
The 1990s:
· Total population has reached 246,081,000.
· Farm population is estimated to be 4,591,000.
· Farmers comprise just 2.6% of the labor force.
· Number of farms is now 2,143,150 and average 461 acres in size.
· Irrigated acres total 46,386,000.
On Saturday June 16th, 1990, the grand opening was held to commemorate the opening of the 3,200 square foot Central Market Annex building addition. Al Hydeman, the then director of downtown economic and community development had this to say in a York Daily Record article on May 26th: “Central Market is the downtown retailing anchor. It draws the largest number of people on a regular basis of any institution downtown.” This addition will also place York Central Market as the first to utilize central air conditioning among all of the surrounding farmer’s markets, including the “new” eastern market located on Memory Lane, which won’t see the addition of central air until 2001.
1990 would also see Willard Scott from the NBC Today Show paying a visit as he broadcast the weather from our Markethouse!
In May of 1991, York Central Market would see itself cast as the location for a Kodak demonstration film entitled “Masquerade‿ and shot by former York native Chris Hart. All of the extras were to be filled by local people and the York City fire department would be called upon to make it “rain” during filming.
July 19th, 1992 would see Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore spending their Saturday morning shopping and visiting at York Central Market! Next morning’s edition of the Sunday News would feature a picture of Mrs. Jo Martin, the grand dame of Central Market, giving Tipper a free sampling of the very tasty Martin’s Chips.
Mary Stephenson’s Party Line column would carry the story of how son Michael and I, having shared our traditional Saturday morning Central Market breakfast, were greeted by an entourage of Secret-Service agents assigned to protect Hillary and Tipper as we exited the corner restaurant – they occupying the center isle. An elderly woman, who we recognized as a regular market patron, slipped under the rope to purchase goods from her regular stand. A female Secret-Service agent informed her she was in a restricted area and would have to vacate. She, in turn, gave the agent a withering glare and announced she would leave when she was finished shopping. The agent wisely backed off and our elderly patron was long gone by the time Hillary and Tipper appeared!
In May of 96, the exterior of Central Market receives a fresh coat of paint. The board approves the sale of stock to raise funds for a new roof.
A September 1st, 1996 York Daily Record article in the Comment section regards an interview with John D. Zimmerman in which John talks about the upcoming $650,000.00 roofing project to replace the 108 year-old slate roof.
The Central Market board had voted to allow additional stock to be sold. When John visited our offices, we readily agreed to become stockholders in such a venerable downtown institution. He also queried me about becoming a board member, so ultimately, I have John Zimmerman to blame for my present predicament!
June 23, 1997, finds Heidler Roofing company in the middle of our roofing replacement project.
On March 21st, 1997, Pat Kinsley, Jack Kay, George Hodges and I were offered board positions to serve with Lester Bentz, Jai Walbrecker, Sam Loucks and Tony Dobrowski. Prior to that letter, we had been interviewed by Tony and Lester on an individual basis. A September 14th York Sunday News article quietly broke the news in an article entitled “Reviving A Tradition.” In this article, we are taken to task as a board and challenged to fix what ails the market.
The Central Market board, as one, agrees that the time has come to grab this bull by the horns and see if we can’t reinvigorate and possibly reinvent York Central Market. In order to accomplish this goal, it is felt that an outside source should be contracted to complete a survey of vendors and customers – both current, past & those who have never visited.
In October of 1998, York Central Market purchases the old United Furniture Sales building for its potential parking and to control the possible future development on this site deemed strategic by the board.
A York Daily Record editorial takes us to task for not expanding hours and days of operation. Little do they know we have already run that flag up the pole and met with a near vendor revolt!
An internal audit of our physical plant reveals a dire need to upgrade the electrical system. The upgrade from 400 amps to 1,600 amps is undertaken and completed for slightly over $100,000.00. Additional costs were approved to alter the support system so that it could blend in with the existing architecture.
A mural is placed over the broken store-front windows of the United Furniture building to dress up its appearance while we entertain proposals from interested tenants. One deal after another falls through as potential tenants insisted on using the parking lot for their own business use. Our customer and vendor survey has identified parking as the number one priority.
First Night York participation and events such as the NRI (Neighborhood Resource Institute) graduation held within our building are initiated as part of our ongoing desire to enhance our customer base and support other worthy downtown projects.
Close cooperation with all downtown businesses and event coordination becomes a priority. Leslie Brown is hired to promote Central Market. Dan Leese is hired to assume the role of Market Master. Together, they present a formidable team.
The Kable property next door on Philadelphia Street is purchased.
We enter into construction of a new two million dollar parking garage on the previous United Furniture Sales building site. That project is rapidly coming to a successful conclusion.
Various code issues are raised by the City and dealt with.
The Central Market Board decides to suspend stock dividends during this unprecedented growth and acquisition period.
Vendor/board joint meetings greatly reduce friction between the factions and open lines of communication.
The balcony receives a facelift and customers flock there for enjoying lunches.
Evidently I missed a meeting and now find myself voted in as President of the board!
General seating areas within Central Market are expanded.
Marketing opportunities are explored.
Extended hours of operation again are on the table because the major opponents have decided to leave. After much debate, both internally and among vendors, it is decided to go for the full Monty – a six-day-a-week operation! Due to vendor diversity and the desire to preserve the tradition farmer stands, it is decided that existing vendors and any future farm-to-market vendors can set their own hours and days of operation. The board agrees as one, that preservation of the traditional Farmer’s Market stands are our number one priority and foundation of operation.
A small group of vendors take advantage of the new hours and several excel at self promotion. The new hours offer full-time operation to those needing more than a 27 hour-a-week business as the past Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday operation offered and we see an upsurge of inquiries regarding stand rental. Anchor stands such as The Pit, the Fish Market, Take Five Espresso, Dietz’s Pretzels, and others are striving to make these extra days a success.
Several artists have taken up residence within Central Market and have brightened our interior with their eclectic works. Pottery, paintings and hand-made jewelry can be found here.
A winery offers Pennsylvania produced award winning reds and whites to suit your palette.
A number of ethnic foods await and tantalize the tastes.
A new common use sink area was installed along the north wall of the main market space to comply with newer codes and provide our vendors with upgraded facilities.
York Central Market – “Tomorrow”
There are numerous projects “in the works” and under consideration by the York Central Market board of directors. We recognize our obligation to the shareholders and will re-institute stock dividends as soon as our current reinvestment in the future welfare of Central Market begins bearing fruit. We expect that to be within several years. In the same breath, we also recognize our need to be attentive to vendor issues and concerns. As we move forward, it is our hope to blend those two together and continue our resolve to work towards a goal that can satisfy the majority in both arenas. We are also keenly aware of our responsibilities and community leadership role for the downtown retail district. Our responsibilities include working with elected City officials to aid in the ongoing promotion of York City, its resources and in any positive way to build visitation from those who would not otherwise choose to patronize venues beyond our borders.
The Kable property has generated interest from potential renters who already understand our desire to hold the courtyard for future use – a tea garden perhaps?
Central air conditioning is being considered as is a second floor balcony that might house specialty shops or other upscale retail shopping experiences to entice downtown shoppers.
Utility upgrades to sewer and water lines, while less glamorous and certainly constitute out-of-sight work, are actively being planned.
We intend to continue identifying, adapting to and overcoming the challenges presented as we move forward in this new century.
We know we are faced with a drop off in farming, competition from multiple avenues such as supermarkets, other farmer’s markets, direct farm markets, and the dynamics of today’s hectic lifestyles with both spouses working and kids who have twelve things to do on any given day.
In spite of diminished farming, at least the traditional small farm family, we will strive to preserve the opportunity for the small farmer to sell his/her wares directly to the customer. Agricultural products will continue to be our primary goal.
Flea market type stands and items will be avoided to whatever extent is possible.
Lighting designed to illuminate and feature the wondrous architectural features of Central Market.
A piano to be placed within the common seating area to render it uncommon and allow you to tickle the ivories during a visit will get added shortly.
Work with the tourist bureau to promote downtown York and tours.
Continue the tradition that has made Central Market a shopping experience that can not be duplicated no matter where you might live. The connection between grower and consumer; gathering with friends old and new; the fellowship and smiles as your life is enriched by enjoying the Central Market shopping experience and its traditions that have been handed down – generation to generation.
In a visit to Philadelphia’s center-city farmers’ market, I hear the refrains of a distant piano. Upon investigation, I discover a “community” piano awaiting anyone who might choose to entertain or amuse the general public. A call goes out seeking a donation for York Central Market. John and Kate Gotwalt answer that call by donating their inherited family piano to York Central Market.
Bill Koons, a local artist, donates his talents and time to paint a delightful mural in our courtyard depicting a farm/barnyard scene. York Central Market is blessed to have such a fine artist willing to donate time, materials and this artist’s flair.
We don’t just sell the steak, we sell the sizzle! Come enjoy our special brand of down-home hospitality and loose yourself in the simpler times enjoyed by past generations before fax machines, cell phones, computers and pagers existed!

A sampling of other York market posts:

Going to market a longtime York County pastime.
York’s Central Market sells steak … and sizzle.
The forgotten fifth York market house.
York Market House No. 1 – Penn Street Farmers Market.
York Market House No. 2 – The architecturally striking City Market.
York Market House No. 3 – The first Eastern Market.
Market House No. 4 – Central Market, York’s most popular.
York Market House No. 5 – Carlisle Avenue Market, revisited.