Columbia Historic Market House
The Columbia Market House is located at 15 South 3rd St, Columbia
(The Market House is currently closed but remains an important historic fixture in our downtown area)
A preliminary inventory of 18th and 19th century market houses in southeastern Pennsylvania estimated that more than half have already been demolished. Of those remaining, many have been significantly altered. However, Columbia’s Market House has survived largely intact, in a form close to its original. This level of architectural integrity, along with the Market House’s survival as a rare building type will helped us secure support from state and county officials for variances to the usual code requirements. The rehabilitation of this historic structure will be an important keystone in the Comprehensive Plan for the community’s future.
If constructed today, using the same solid construction techniques and quality materials, that building would cost millions of dollars – if you could find people who have those skills. Many cities now starting their own public markets would envy Columbia for already having such a wonderful and historic building for its market.
According to a national study, the prices in farmers markets are generally lower and the products freshness and nutritional value much higher than for the same items in a typical supermarket. Surveys have determined that market prices on similar items represent an average savings in the range of 8-34%. Today, very little of a customer’s ‘supermarket dollar’ is spent on the food itself. More than $0.79 of every supermarket dollar spent by shoppers goes toward the costs of advertising, management, and overhead – less than $0.21 is returned to the farmer. It is no wonder that public markets can offer both lower prices and better quality produce.
For lower income households, food costs are even more significant than for other economic strata: among households with an after tax income between $5,000-$10,000, food expenditures represents approximately more than one-third of their income. The federal government currently funds two program’s which provide fresh, local produce at low or no cost to qualified families (through WIC) and senior citizens (through the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Pilot Program). By helping to keep local dollars in the regional economy. Columbia’s Market will strengthen local agriculture, as it adds to local urban investment.
The Market sits at the geographic center of the newly designated Lancaster-York Heritage Region, and by re-activating it, Columbia can tap into the heritage tourism market envisioned for this region. Columbia Borough includes two of the three bridges uniting Lancaster and York Counties and the market bases of Philadelphia and New York to the east as well as Baltimore-Washington to the south. Not only are these tourists looking for authentic sites such as the Market House, but also revitalization of the Market House will tie in well with the LYHR theme of “Foodways – from Farm to Table.” By incorporating interpretive materials on these themes – such as displays, maps, tasting, and demonstrations – the Market could fill a niche which other regional markets are not currently addressing.
In dozens of communities across the country, people are re-discovering the value in fresh local foods and community enterprise. Many markets have been started in the past decade, some as simple as parking lot events (like one in Mount Joy) and others in brand new, single purpose buildings (like in Portland, Maine). According to the USDA, the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown dramatically, increasing 79 percent from 1994 to 2002. The 2002 National Farmers Market Directory lists over 3,100 farmers markets are operating in the United States.
Fresh foods provide important health benefits and two federal agencies recently launched the “Five a Day For Better Health” program. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are now developing initiatives to raise awareness of the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. Public Markets are ideal avenues for bringing quality produce closer to consumers.