Lexington Market

400 West Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Old as the nation itself, Lexington Market has been Baltimore's pantry since 1782.

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Why It Works

Lexington Market may have the most convincing claim to America's richest market tradition. While it is housed in relatively new architectural surroundings, it preserves the ambiance of the past cloaked in an array of sounds, aromas and eye-pleasing foods of every description. The market has historically served as an incubator for start-up businesses, sometimes fueled by the waves of immigrants coming to the area and other entrepreneurs. Those businesses mature over the years and are passed from one generation to another. Some have been in the Market for over 100 years.

History & Background

Standing on its original site, the land for Lexington Market was donated in 1782 by General John Howard and was named for the Battle of Lexington. Originally an open-air market, the first shed was built in 1803. As many as 600 farm wagons would jam the area on Saturdays. When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the market he proclaimed Baltimore the "gastronomic capital of the world."

By 1925, the sheds ran for three city blocks and there were over 1,000 stalls. During the next 20 years, several mayors tried to close the market and replace it with something modern, but merchants were stubbornly loyal to the old sheds. March 25, 1949 changed everything when a 6-alarm fire destroyed the market. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1952 and remains there today, along with a 1980s-era addition housing many fast-food tenants. The market authority also operates an 1180-car parking garage. The market is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30am - 6pm.

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