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The Haymarket Farmer's Market: One of Lincoln's Original Traditions

by Christina Case

The Haymarket Farmer’s Market represents an open-air market tradition that has been revived just within the last 30 years.  The original Lincoln “farmer's market” was in existence in 1867.  That was the year that the Nebraska Territory officially became a state and Lancaster, a small town of about 2,000, came out on top in the political fight with Omaha to move the location of the state capitol.  (Lancaster was actually renamed after recently-assassinated President Lincoln under the influence of Omaha supporters, who hoped it would create opposition to the move, since many people south of the Platte River had been sympathetic to the Confederacy).  

At the time, Market Square, the block between O and P streets from 9th to 10th, served as an outdoor market for produce and livestock and became a central gathering place for the growing community, as well as a camping ground for the wagon-loads of immigrants passing through on their way west.  A decade later the city moved the market a few blocks north and named the area Haymarket Square, in order to make space for the post office and courthouse that the federal government decided to erect.  

Haymarket Square continued to serve as a hay and livestock market until 1886, when it became the site of Lincoln’s first City Hall.  Lincoln exploded in growth throughout the 1880’s, due in large part to the railroad and the scores of manufacturing jobs that came along with it.  Several of the original warehouse and hotel buildings that characterize the Haymarket now have been preserved from Lincoln's boom town era (like the Creamery Building, Apothecary Building, and Lincoln Station.)

The Haymarket district was designated a landmark by the City of Lincoln in 1982, and began undergoing a process of revitalization.  As part of it, a small farmer's market that had started in another downtown location moved to the historic district around 1990 and has grown from about 10 vendors to over 200.

Think the history of the HayMarket Farmer's Market is great? Stay tuned to read how the Farmer's Market has grown to what we know today. To dive deeper into the history of the Lincoln HayMarket, check out: http://lincolnhaymarket.org/about/history/

Photo Credit: Hydephine