Founded in 1693, this was the first market in Philadelphia, and was the antecedent to the markets that stretched up and down High Street – seen in the photo of the dramatized port aside, the market poured out on to the river’s front ready to welcome all the good flowing in from around the county and world.
The markets along High street would be removed by 1860, replaced with market halls scattered throughout the city. When the High street shed were taken down, the trolley tracks took over, as seen in the photo below showing a trolley rotary at the site of the former market head house; dating from 1903. As a gesture to Philadelphia’s market past, the name of High Street was changed to Market Street as a historic gesture to the street that once held the auras of the spice of ages.
This earliest market was fashioned after markets seen in Europe at the time, which would usually include the offices of a governing authority above the market place. (As seen in the photo aside of an English town market) In the case of Philadelphia’s High Street Market, the head house also included market-governing offices along with some city governing spaces. The large difference between this and earlier markets is that the High Street Market expanded not into a market square, as would be the tradition in Europe; but in a long shaft of a structure down the street- this structure would be expanded constantly until it almost hit Penn Square to the west, the first such of these expansions was in 1708.
The market was constructed in 1693 with the headhouse added in 1704. The head house acted alos as a watchtower for invading enemy pirates or European raiders; as was the fear of the time. The first owner was Robert Brett who regulated its Wednesday and Saturday market days and its opening hours (sunrise to sunset) depending on the season.
By 1722, the market was expanded again, however this time it was so large that it had to segregate uses; this was the time of the first health laws set up, mostly around getting the butchers away from everyone else. So orderly the market became that in 1723 Ben Franklin said this about its meaning to the city:
“Concerning our well-furnished plentiful market as the best of gardens, I am turning mine, in the midst of which my house stands, into grass plots and gravel walks with trees and flowering shrubs” – Referring to how it was such a sublime model of social civility and refinement that his home is such when he brings the goods back
No obtainable maps of the market are in existance since the market was removed before the advent of modern mapping in Philadelphia. The market also failed to leave an imprint on the Philadelphia street scape since High Street was already wide enough to accomidate the markets and lanes for traffic.
This was the inspiration for many other city markets, and would be copied at Second and Pine Streets and Second and Fairmount streets.