Landmarks: Centre Market
- from the Wheeling News-Register, May 20, 1976. © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
The oldest known cast iron market in the United States is Wheeling's own 1853 Centre Market. The city purchased all the middle area of the block for $1.00 apiece from each of the property owners on both sides of Market Street between Twenty-second and Twenty-third streets in 1851. The first building was designed by Thomas Pope in Greek Revival style with gabled roof, belfry and distinctive iron Doric columns which were cast in the local foundry of Hamilton and Rodgers.
The building represents a time when the market was the essential commercial contact between farm and city. Also, the market was the place to go for the exchange of gossip and public meetings. During the Civil War, the 5th Regiment Virginia Militia assembled in the market and, on one occasion, Governor Francis H. Pierpoint of the Restored Government of Virginia, spoke to the crowds gathered there.
The market is still a viable part of the community and through the efforts of the City of Wheeling, the Junior League of Wheeling and a matching Byrd grant to Friends of Wheeling, the exterior of the cast iron market house will soon be beautified by a fresh coat of paint on the trim, the roof repaired, planters with ivy and dogwood, the belfry repaired and up-lighting to emphasize the iron columns. On the interior, the gas lights and butchers' hooks have long ago been removed, but the beautifully displayed sparkling fruits and vegetables, cheeses, poultry, homemade bread, farm fresh eggs and honey still remain to attract hundreds of customers weekly. It will be business as usual on Saturday but the building will be closed on Sunday. Hopefully, however, the belfry containing the pre-1853 bell from the council chamber will be repaired, and the bell will resoundingly announce each activity about to take place over the weekend during Centre Market Celebration. Although the bell announced the opening of the market at 4:00 a.m. in the 1850's, it will only peal between 10:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, May 22 and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 23.
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