Soulard Market: A Historic St. Louis Site

Soulard Market: A Historic St. Louis Site

Sarah Coffey
May 9, 2011

Store History

  • Founded: 1779
  • Founded by: Julia Cerre Soulard
  • Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri

This is the market I visited as a kid, and the stalls full of strawberries and pistachios still look just the way they did over twenty years ago. Not much has changed at Soulard over the years, which is a good thing. First opened in 1779, this is one of the oldest public markets in the US. Since 1838, it's existed in its current location in the French riverfront neighborhood of Soulard.

Well... some things have changed — the market now hosts Top Chef Competitions and the word "organic" shows up more frequently on stall signs, but overall, it's still the same old Soulard.

The "oldest farmers market west of the Mississippi" is open year-round on Wednesdays through Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm and Saturdays from 7 am to 5:30 pm. Originally a French trading post, the market took shape in its current location after Julia Cerre Soulard donated two half-blocks to the city for the creation of a permanent market. According to local historians:

    "The first structure was built on the site in 1843 by a private joint venture of farmers and vendors, who sold shares to build a one-story red brick building on the eastern of the two half blocks. During the Civil War years the local military commander declared martial law throughout the city. The grounds of Soulard Market were pressed into duty as a military encampment of pro-Union guards, charged with enforcing martial law. Since then the market has had a long and varied history, through tornado damage, urban beautification during the "City Beautiful" movement of 1909-11, the construction of a new building in 1928-29, the threat of demolition for new development, decline into slum conditions, and comeback beginning in the 1970s."

Shopping List of Market Specialties:

Schweiger's Produce: A fourth generation family-owned stall that's been in the market for over 100 years. Shop here for fresh fruits and vegetables in season: watermelons, tomatoes, peppers, apples, cantaloupes, and peaches.

Soulard Florist: They've been in the market since 1970, stocking bunches of mums, daisies, roses, orchids — whatever is fresh and in season.

Scharf Farm: Produce grown in nearby Millstadt, Illinois. Depending on the season, look for bright and beautiful strawberries, asparagus, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, okra, squash, and pumpkins.

Soulard Spice Shop: First opened in 1914, this shop says they sell between "600 and 800 pounds of spices weekly."

Do you shop at Soulard? Share your experiences in the comments.

Images: (1) used via Creative Commons License 2.0, (2) used via Creative Commons License 2.0, (3) Matthew Black used via Creative Commons License 2.0, (4) Herkie used via Creative Commons License 2.0, (5) Jake's Guide to Soulard | Apartment Therapy

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