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The Columbia Market House was constructed in 1869 for nearly $20,000. The Market House is 118 feet long, 80 feet wide and was once furnished with 180 inside stalls and 37 outside stalls. The outside stalls were removed many years ago.

The design of the Columbia Market House, constructed in 1869, is attributed to Isaac Hobbs and Samuel Sloan, with Michael Liphart as the builder. Hobbs began his architectural career with public buildings, including two Philadelphia schools (1866 and 1867), and the Dollar Savings Bank in Pittsburgh (1870). The Columbia Market House was an early, public commission for Hobbs. In 1873, he published Hobbs’ Architecture and launched his later career in designing private residences outside of large urban centers. For Sloan, the Columbia Market House commission came during a declining year of a prolific architectural practice. Sloan’s early career in the 1850′s was marked by institutional work designing hospitals, schools, and churches. He also published multiple volumes on architecture, which went into several editions. Following on the upheaval of the financial panic of 1857-1858 and the Civil War, Sloan sought security in partnership with Addison Hutton in 1864. However, this unhappy partnership ended in 1867, when Sloan left briefly for New York. It is unclear how much influence Sloan would have had on the Columbia Market House project during this tumultuous period in his career. It is more probable that Hobbs shouldered most of the work. Both Hobbs and Sloan are perhaps best known for their building patterns, primarily for residences, that were published in books, journals and periodicals.

The Columbia Market House was constructed on the site of an earlier open air market and takes the form of a long, enclosed shed structure. The large interior open space was spanned with arched, Howe trusses, a cross-braced wood truss reinforced with iron tension rods that was popular for railroad bridges. The design mimics the open market sheds that were in use in the first half of the nineteenth century, while incorporating the same construction technique used in train sheds.

Construction of the Columbia Market House was funded by the municipality, an anomaly in Pennsylvania during 1850-1890, when many of the newer market buildings were being constructed by private corporations. However, the Columbia Market House did follow the trend to tear down open air markets and construct off-street market houses. The Broad Street Market House in Harrisburg (1856-1869) was also constructed as a long, narrow shed structure with central clerestory windows set in a roof monitor. The Ridge Avenue Farmers Market in Philadelphia (1875) was another shed-type market building embellished with gothic details. However, later market buildings tended to be designed more as a building in their own right with enhanced facilities. While retaining the open market house interior, later market buildings exhibited architectural detailing and clearly defined entrances for service providers and the public. Examples of the later type of market buildings include the York Central Market (1888), the Lancaster Southern Market (1888), and the Lancaster Central Market (1889).

In the late nineteenth century, the basement of the Columbia Market House was altered to accommodate seven municipal jail cells. The Columbia Market House was active from 1869 until market activities gradually declined during the last quarter of the twentieth century. The building was cleaned by sandblasting in 1965-68, permanently damaging the exterior brick. The Borough of Columbia financed some exterior maintenance work in the 1980s, including re-pointing the building, replacing exterior doors, repairing the roof, and painting exterior wood trim. By the 1990s, the market could no longer support itself. Regular operations ceased in 1994 only to reopen in 2005 with several vendors doing business every Thursday 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

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