We passed by (or through) Charleston’s City Market numerous times each day. Mere steps from our hotel, the lengthy expanse of covered sheds provided a shady alternative to walking along the streets and sidewalks in the hot summer sun. The main entrance to the City Market is underneath Market Hall—a building dating back to 1841, which houses the Confederate Museum on its upper floor. This Greek Revival structure faces Meeting Street and originally served as an assembly room for dances, parties, and the like. It was later used as a military recruiting office when war broke out between the states. Shoppers and site-seers can enter the City Market through an arched entrance below the hall’s impressive staircase. The market—which stretches the length of four city blocks—dates back to the late 1700s. It has been renovated and rebuilt a number of times through the years due to damage inflicted by hurricanes, earthquakes, and fire. Originally, local farmers set up produce stands in the market and also sold meat there. Charlestonians and people from the outlying areas found it convenient to meet and socialize at the City Market. Today’s vendors sell a wide variety of items from souvenirs to stone-ground grits, hats to Christmas decorations, and jewelry to Gullah sweetgrass baskets. I even purchased an inexpensive duffel bag to haul home all of my other purchases! There are several eateries inside the market as well. This is one stop you will definitely want to work into your itinerary when visiting Charleston!
Gullah ladies can be seen throughout the market area—and all over the historic district—selling their hand-woven baskets. An average size bread basket can take weeks or months to make and carries a price tag of about two hundred dollars! Larger baskets are even more pricey.
Vendors who peddle their wares in the open-air section of the market must set up and pack up each day. We were amazed at how quickly they could accomplish this—in a matter of only a few minutes.