Essex Street Market Debuts Historical Mural

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If you visited the Essex Street Market this past weekend, you probably noticed this new historical mural celebrating the legacy of the 77-year-old public facility.

The 20-foot display presents a timeline from 1900 through the opening of the market by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1940, up to the present day. It was a collaboration among the Lower East Side Partnership, the Essex Street Market Vendor Association and Turnstile Tours, which provided research for the project. It was made possible through a grant from Avenue NYC, a program of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. The mural was installed in partnership with the Economic Development Corp., which operates the market.

The timeline begins in 1900 with the establishment of the first open air pushcart market on Hester Street.  It references La Guardia’s vow in 1934 to “clear the street of pushcarts” by creating a network of indoor markets. The mural points out that there were 475 vendors spread across four buildings when the Essex Street Market, all of whom were paying $4.75 per week for their stalls.

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A huge transition is, of course, ahead for the public market. This is the last full year in the current facility before the vendors move into a new building on the south side of Delancey Street. It’s part of the mixed-use Essex Crossing project. The current building will eventually be torn down to make room for condos. The mural ends with a rendering of the new building and a caption that reminds shoppers that, until the move, “our beloved market will remain open for business.”

Anne Saxelby, head of the vendors’ association, said the mural gives shoppers a look at the past, present and future of the market. “In this time of transition for Essex Street Market, we think it’s more important than ever to highlight the market’s rich past and bright future!,” said Saxelby. Cindy VandenBosch of Tunstile Tours said the project offered a great opportunity to, “dig deeper into the history of the market and uncover and share little-known stories with the public… that had been buried in city and newspaper archives.” Her organization is offering a 25% discount for its weekly Essex Street Market tasting tours (use the discount code: LESWinter).

Tim Laughlin of the LES Partnership said the installation marks the completion of improvements at the market undertaken in the past year to boost foot traffic. “The enhancements,” he said, “are designed to ensure that the vendors and the market as a whole are well-positioned for the transition to the new facility in the years to come.”

A formal unveiling of the mural will be scheduled sometime soon.