Galveston’s City Market, 1846-1887

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I recently came across this stereoview of Galveston’s Civil War-era central market, at the Lawrence T. Jones III Collection of Texas Photographs at SMU. It’s taken at the intersection of 20th Street and Avenue D, which latter street is known as Market Street because of this facility. The SMU catalog dates the image to the decade of the 1880s, but I believe it may be earlier; it was replaced by this French Renaissance, Disney-esque pomposity, designed by Alfred Muller, in 1888. The later structure was heavily damaged in the 1900 Storm, but elements of it survived into the 1960s. You can view a merged sequence of the site then and now, here.

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The narrow strip of property, in the middle of 20th Streets between Avenues B (now Strand) and D (now Market), was obtained by the city in late 1845, as one of the last acts undertaken by the city during the period of the Republic of Texas. The market was built in 1846, with stalls on the ground floor for vendors. Municipal offices and City Hall were located on the second floor. The earliest image of the market may be from 1861, when it was captured (above) in one of a series of images taken from the top on the Hendley Building (image from Rosenberg Library, Galveston).

The City Hall on the second floor of the market served as a meeting place on the evening of October 8, 1862, when those citizens who chose not to evacuate the city during the impending Union occupation elected J. W. Moore, the oldest magistrate in the county, to serve as the city’s mayor pro tempore during the crisis. The market would have been a dangerous place to be early on New Year’s Day 1863, as it was close to some of the fiercest fighting. General Magruder fired the first shot in the action from a spot just a couple of hundred yards up 20th Street; Magruder, who had a flair for the theatrical, pulled the lanyard on the gun, which was aimed at the Union gunboat Owasco, anchored in the harbor. The gun went off with a roar, after which Magruder turned to the artillerymen standing nearby and said, “I have done my best as a private; I will go and attend to that of a general.” In the heated (and largely blind-firing) exchange that followed, many buildings were struck by shellfire; the city market undoubtedly took its share of hits.

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The city market appeared in Theodore R. Davis’ illustration of Galveston, published in Harper’s Weekly in the fall of 1866 (above), and in a well-known “birds-eye” view of the city published in 1871 (below).

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Then the city market made one final appearance in another birds-eye view of the city published in 1885 (above). The old wooden market building was no doubt showing its age by then, particularly when compared to the myriad, multistory brick structures that had sprung up around it in the postwar decades. It was nearly forty years old by that point, and there was probably also a need for much more space for municipal offices — Galveston had grown from a population of about 5,000 in 1850 to more than four times that number in 1880.

Finally, here are 3D versions of the Jones Collection image, optimized for both red/cyan glasses and for web viewing:

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