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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The "Columbia's Historic Market House: Part I - Market Day!" Story

Undated photo of the Columbia Market House.
It was an ordinary day.  Just stepped into one of the most amazing buildings in the small river town known as Columbia, Pennsyl- vania.  Just a hop, skip and a jump from Lancaster, but one that I never knew much about in the past.  Years ago I taught school with Mr. Joseph Robinson.  I type his name with the "Mr." since he was also my teacher when I was in high school.  
Same Market House that I visited today.
Taught English and if he were still alive today would certainly be proud that I have taken to the keyboard to share my life's adventures and memories with the world.  Joe, as I knew him as a fellow teacher, was the nicest guy, but as a student of his in English class, was a feared ruler.  I can still remember the day he caught me throwing a spitball while in the classroom next to his.  
The rear of the Market House is just as beautiful.
He reported me to that teacher, Mr. Miller, who in turn paddled me.  Just lucky Mr. Robinson didn't also do the same, since the two of them had an ongoing contest to see who could paddle the most students.  Mr. Joseph Robinson lived in Columbia and after knowing him as a fellow teacher, I began to visit places in Columbia based on suggestions and recommendations from Joe.  Since that time I have found the historic town to be a treasure trove of exciting stories and friendly people.  
The original roof trusses can be seen in this photograph.
As I stepped into Columbia's Market House today I began an entire new adventure.  For years I just assumed that Lancaster's Central Market House was the oldest public run market in the area, but I now find that the Columbia Market House was built twenty years earlier in 1869.  Since that time it has served as the town center of activity.  The market house was designed by Samuel Sloan and Isaac Hobbs and built by Michael Liphart on the site of an earlier open air market.  
Another undated photo from earlier times.
The cost of construction was $20,000 and was 118 feet long, 80 feet wide and was originally furnished with 180 inside stalls and 37 outside stalls.  Not quite sure what year the outside stalls were demolished, but today all stalls are inside the market house.  The large interior space of the market is spanned with Howe trusses which are wood reinforced with iron tension rods much the same as were used for making railroad bridges.  Farmers from neighboring towns such as York and Lancaster transported their goods to Columbia to sell in the market house.  
Interior as it is seen today.
The market house was a hub of activity from 1869 until the last part of the twentieth century when booths began to close throughout the market house.  The market closed in 1994, but reopened with new vendors that sold not only food and drink products, but a variety of other goods.  The market master today, Teresa, has hopes to continue the growth of the past.  
This is a Keeley stove which is used
to heat the market.  It was made
years ago in Columbia, PA.
In the mid-1960s the exterior of the building was sandblasted which caused damage to the brick walls.  Eventually they were re-pointed and new exterior doors were added as well as repairs to the roof and painting of the exterior wood trim.  The Columbia Market House is located at 15 South 3rd Street and is open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Now I have one more fact that I will share with you that you will be able to read about in greater detail tomorrow.  On the south side of the Market House, along Ave. I, is a set of stair that lead down to a thick wooden basement door with a barred transom above the door.   That door has no exterior handle or knob, but was made that way on purpose.  For you see, when opened it leads into what is known as the "Black Hole".  REALLY!!  Don't miss the second part of my story tomorrow about the Columbia Market House.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The front facade showing the marquee "Columbia Market House" sign.
Follow along tomorrow as I write about where these steps lead!!


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  2. Thank you for visiting our market Ordinary Guy and writing Part 1 of your visit.