The Public Market in Albany

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For most of the 1700s there was one public market location in Albany, on Broadway (known then as Market St.) between Maiden Lane and State St. For most of that century the market was merely a gathering place for vendors and buyers until an actual Market House was built in 1791. But by 1807, as a result of increased traffic and activity on Broadway, the Common Council ordered its removal and established three (3) markets: the North Market (about where the EnCon building is today), the South Market (Broadway between Hamilton St. and Madison Ave.) and the Centre Market near what is now Howard St. and So. Pearl.

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DOver time all but the Centre Market fell out of use and the land of the North and South Markets was sold for other purposes. By the mid-1850s, as Albany grew, the public market was pushed back one block behind So. Pearl to Howard and William Streets and most of the vendors were wholesale sellers, crowding out smaller farmers.

As a result, an informal, unsanctioned farmer’s market developed on State St. just below the Capitol. But as construction of the new Capitol advanced during the Gilded Age, this market not only impeded rapidly increasing traffic on State St., but became an embarrassment to the City Fathers. Additionally, it was unregulated and there were complaints about hucksters and unfair dealings with buyers.

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By 1884 a new municipal public market (for primarily farmers) was opened adjacent to the old market between Hudson, Beaver, and Daniel Streets.

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In 1891, the J.B. Lyon Printing Co. constructed a large building at the back of the market and it became known as Lyon Block.

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During the early part of the 20th century, as a result of the influx of immigrants as buyers and vendors (many small truck gardens and farms ringed the City), the public market was thriving, crowded every day and generating revenue for the City.

In the mid-1930s it was expanded down to Grand St. as part of a Depression public works project. It was about the same time Lyon Co. moved to Menands and mostly discount stores came to occupy the building.

By the 1950s the market space was used primarily for parking on week days and was really only busy on Saturdays, generating little revenue, as customs changed and people did most of their shopping in large bright and new shiny supermarkets. In 1962, the market and much around it was targeted as part of the “take area” for the new Empire State Plaza. By 1964 the market and the old Lyon Building were gone. And soon, all traces of a public market in Albany vanished.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

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