French Market

Update: I revisited the area in late summer of 2020.

Tucked away, right in the middle of the jumble of streets that head into Downtown, is a one block stretch of street, an alley really, named French Market Court.

French Market? Only five or six blocks north of the more famous Soulard Market, the South Market, known as the French Market presumably because of its location in the Frenchtown neighborhood, was one of two markets built by the City of St. Louis in 1839 to expand market space from the original market on Market Street.

The North Market, known as the Mound Market, was located up on the northside of what is now Downtown.

But does anything survive that could have originally been part of the French Market? The buildings now lining the street seem to be warehouses, not market buildings.

I suspect, as Soulard Market took off, the French Market slowly died off, and as the area became more industrial the market buildings at Broadway and LaSalle Streets was torn down. Looking at the Sanborn maps, which are approximately one hundred years old depending on the edition and revisions, reveal large amounts of vacant land along the Court, suggesting that the buildings had only recently been torn down in the last decade before the map was published. I find it hard to believe that there would be so much vacant land otherwise in such a densely settled sector of the city. Seemingly, only the street survives as a remnant of one of the first market spaces in the rapidly expanding St. Louis.

There is enormous potential in these buildings, as considering that most of the urban fabric has been annihilated for Rally’s and White Castle parking lots, the relative intact stretch of warehouses and light industrial buildings would be perfect for rehabilitation.

If you have any historic photos or paintings of the French Market, please let me know! There’s next to no information out there about the market, and it is a fascinating relic of the past that deserves more attention.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Med Darnell says:

    The French Market’s location was actually in the middle of the intersection of Broadway and Fourth St. If you look at old maps you can readily see that the market was right in the confluence of both streets, just south of Chouteau. The market was torn down in 1910, because a lawsuit was filed in city court banning the existence of public venues. [eg. French Market] that lie in the middle of traffic roadways. I suspect, from my studies, that it was torn down because of personal competition reasons. What ever the case, the orchestrators of this lawsuit and subsequent demolition was an architectural and historical mistake. Soulard Market was putting tremendous pressure on the French Market towards the end of the 19th century, which roles were reversed for several decades following the construction of Soulard Market. I suspect that if this triangular street section were excavated, that the original foundation blocks of the French Market would still be there, unless they bulldozed to deeper excavations, removing all remnants of the French Market. Just letting you know a few tidbits of history.

  2. Med Darnell says:

    I just found the old picture of the French Market in the Pictorial St. Louis 1875 book listed on plate #3. It’s very plain as to what the design of the building was and its location. Actually, it is the actual space listed as a ‘park’ on Broadway and Fourth in your Sanborn map. The Market’s south location was Convent Street. The street presently listed as French Market Court, was originally a back yard to properties in 1875. French Market Court was an addition, after the fact and named so as a ‘proximal location’, to the market itself, as all of the other streets were named and set. When this street name occurred can easily be tracked if its history is studied, I haven’t done so, as I never saw the need. To be quite plain, French Market Ct., as it sets today, is an ALLEY, for the present day businesses. I remember, actually, driving down there in the 1990’s and became puzzled at the street name, as it didn’t add up to the markets location, with the present day buildings, as such. The only explanation was that it is a ‘remembrance’ street name as to its relative location. If French Market Ct. has any historical significance as to function, concerning the French Market, I’m not aware of it. Hope this helps.

  3. Cindy Finnegan says:

    I ran across your page about the French Market while researching for my family history. My 2xgreat Grandfather, Reinhard Steitz, was a butcher and he was listed at #18 French Market for several years. I was hoping to find photos or more information market and vendors.
    Thanks for the work you’ve done.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      I’ve been meaning to do more research on the old French Market. The Missouri History Museum has some photos, and if you live in St. Louis or can visit our city, I encourage you to go visit the archives on Skinker.

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