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The “gastronomic capital of the world” declared Ralph Waldo Emerson on a visit to Lexington Market. Established in 1782 on land donated by John Eager Howard, Lexington Market was an overnight success as local farmers flocked to the site to sell their produce. Although the original intention of the market was to sell only Maryland-grown produce by the turn of the twentieth century, the market offered an international selection as thousands of immigrants moved to Baltimore and became both vendors and customers at Lexington Market.
The city kept the price to rent a stall at the market low to encourage aspiring business owners to get their start. This practice was particularly beneficial for immigrants who had few job opportunities upon entering the United States. As a result, immigrant communities grew around Lexington Market and helped establish a diverse community in West Baltimore. The new products offered at the market contributed to the international fame it would attain at the turn of the century.
While the form of Lexington Market has changed dramatically over the decades — the early frame market shed was replaced in 1952 following a 1949 fire and the city significantly expanded the market in the 1980s — the community of vendors and locals continues to draw crowds of residents and tourists daily.
Text by Keegan Skipper and Theresa Donnelly. Photo via Detroit Publishing Company ~ Date: c.1903