History, Charleston City Market
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney ceded the land on which the Market is built to the City of Charleston in 1788. He stipulated that a public market be built on the site and that it remain in use as a public market into perpetuity.
To fulfill this requirement, the low buildings that stretch from Market Hall to the waterfront were built between 1804 and the 1830's. These originally housed meat, vegetable and fish markets and rented for $1.00 per day -- or $2.00, if the space had a piece of marble to keep the meat or fish cold. Butchers were known to throw meat scraps into the streets, attracting many buzzards that were nicknamed Charleston Eagles. Through the years, the sheds have survived many disasters, including fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and bombardment.
Three years after the Masonic Hall on the corner of Meeting and Market Streets was destroyed by fire, the current Market Hall was built in 1841 from a design by Edward Brickwell White. He was paid $300 for his plan, a copy of the Temple of the Wingless Victory in Athens. It was originally used by the Market Commissioners for meetings, social functions and space rental underneath.
Since the 1970's, the original sheds and the areas opposite the Market on both sides have housed many small and unique shops, each with its own flavor, history and character. Some of the products for sale include locally crafted sweetgrass baskets, clothing, artwork, jewelry, local souvenirs, perfumes, food, and other gift items. The vegetable and fruit vendors are still there alongside the basket weavers who speak Gullah and entice you to buy their goods.
The City Market, one of the oldest in the country, is significant enough to be part of a permanent exhibit entitled “Life in Coastal South Carolina c. 1840” at the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.