History of the Public Market
The Jamestown Public Market has operated in the Jamestown area for over 100 years. Though the landscape for the market has changed throughout the years, what remains is the dedication from local farmers and vendors to retain this food system enterprise in our great city.
In the 19th century, the food needs of the citizens of Jamestown were met differently than in the 20th century. Many families and garden plots and many kept a few chickens or raised or butchered a hog yearly. Grocery stores dotted the neighborhoods and specialized in nonperishables in bulk. Home and commercial canning appeared in the second half of the 19th century and the railroad brought a few exotic and out of season treats for those that could afford them. Area farmers peddled eggs in spring and summer and vegetables in the fall. Milk was delivered daily.
In the early 20th century residents relied more fully on stores supplemented by local farmers with peddling licenses. Around 1909 the city set up areas on Pine Street and Brooklyn Square for a farmers market. Mayor Samuel Carlson favored the concept. Brooklyn Square proved the more popular of the two areas. In 1913 the city built an enclosed, permanent structure where farmers and merchants could rent stalls. This was replaced by a grander brick building in 1923. It was remodeled and modernized at least twice.
The Jamestown Public Market was popular with immigrants and was a cherished gathering place. The advent of modern supermarkets, packaging and frozen foods cut into the popularity of the market and it’s permanent structure closed in 1965.
Little is known regarding the formal organization of a farmers market in Jamestown between 1965 and 1977, however the ‘Jamestown Farmers Market’ opened downtown in 1977, officially open each Friday first at Brooklyn Square, and in later years in front of the former Commons Mall. It was sponsored by the Jamestown Area Chambers of Commerce.
The Jamestown Farmers Market continued in some capacity into modern times. It varied in organization and size until it was acquired in 2006 by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. First located along the alleyway beside the former Lillian Ney Building, the Downtown Jamestown Farmers Market offered a variety of vendors selling fresh vegetables, locally ground coffee beans, and baked goods. The market also offered an indoors winter market, located within the lobby of the Lillian Ney Building, offering locally grown and crafted products during the colder months. This winter market closed after several years, and the summer market moved to Cherry Street between Second and Third Streets in 2016.
In 2015 the Downtown Jamestown Farmers Market began accepting SNAP EBT benefits, becoming more accessible for all Jamestown shoppers. In 2017 the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation was the recipient of the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funding, for the second time (the first being in 2012). This grant funding allowed the market to expand its community programming and work toward sustainability. In 2017 the market also returned to its original name and branding, now known as the Jamestown Public Market.
In 2020 the Jamestown City Council approved a city-wide ordinance allowing farmers markets and mobile market to operate within city parks and city owned property without the need for a peddler’s license. This greatly expanded the ability of the markets to operate in a more accessible manner.
While the look and name of the Jamestown Public Market has changed numerous times throughout the past 100 plus years, the mission remains the same: provide fresh, local food to city residents, while supporting local farm and small business owners.
In late 2019, with the support of the JRC, the Public and Mobile markets moved under the umbrella of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Thanks to the church's rector Luke Fodor, the markets have been supported and encouraged to grow. With a new home through the church, the market has been able to make new connections to volunteers ,community supporters, and expand it's food system work within Chautauqua County.
All information provided by the Fenton History Museum and Jamestown Renaissance Corporation.