Gansevoort Market – Open for Business in 1884
Gansevoort Market, a giant, open-air farmer’s market located on the enormous block between Gansevoort and Little West 12th streets, Washington and West Streets, officially opened for business on June 15, 1884. This was the former site of Fort Gansevoort, and is now the home of the Gansevoort Market Meat Center and the Whitney Museum.
That entire area has at various times throughout its history come to be referred to as Gansevoort Market, or the Meatpacking District. We thought we would take a quick look at the origins of the original Gansevoort Market, and then take a look at what has become in the time since of the neighborhood which bears its name.
This original open-air Gansevoort Market was quite a hub of activity. Harper’s Weekly described the scene in 1888, a few years after its official opening:
“During the dark hours of early morning, as hundreds of wagons of all descriptions converge upon the market regions, pandemonium reigns as traffic chokes the thoroughfares for blocks around.”
The area evolved into a meat market as well; a report conducted by architectural historian Thomas Mellins for GVSHP explores the market’s later history:
In 1926, the city, eager to increase the tax revenue it garnered from the increasingly valuable property occupied by the Gansevoort Farmers’ Market, moved to close it. At about that time, the district started to undergo a planned transformation into a meatpacking and wholesale meat distribution center. The alteration of existing buildings to serve market functions, a process begun in the 1880’s, continued throughout the 1930’s. The 1930’s also saw the completion of the elevated West Side Highway and the elevated rail lines on what is now called the High Line, which extended all the way down past Houston Street. Both were designed in part to relieve surface traffic in the area, which had become one of the most congested in the city.—A Case for Preservation
At that time, both produce and meat markets thrived in the area. In the 1940s the city demolished the West Washington Market, and meat businesses proliferated in the district. In 1949, when the city was in the midst of building a new meat market facility, workers encountered Fort Gansevoort’s foundation, constructed 138 years before. The Gansevoort Market Meat Center, which still functions, opened on the site in 1950.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and GVSHP and other neighborhood groups responded to the dramatic changes already occurring to the architectural fabric of this area, which has important links to New York’s mercantile past. In 2001, GVSHP formally submitted a proposal for designation of a Gansevoort Market Historic District to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).
In September of 2003, the LPC voted to designate a Gansevoort Market Historic District, which included about two-thirds of the area GVSHP proposed for designation. You can read Part 1 of the designation report here and Part 2 here. This was the first new district to be enacted in the Village since the first Greenwich Village Historic District in 1969 (in 2007, GVSHP successfully secured listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places for our entire proposed Gansevoort Market Historic District).
Images of Gansevoort from the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s are available in the GVSHP archive. This collection provides wonderful documentation of the area’s recent evolution.