By: Lynn Reichen
In Danville, the Curbside Market was once an institution. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the summer months homemakers were able to purchase farm grown fruits, vegetables, meats and milk. The days in winter were Wednesday and Saturday. The vendors set up their stands on the east side of Mill Street during the warm months but in November the stands moved to the west side of street to take advantage of the warmth of the sun. The stands stretched from the corner of route 11 and Mill streets all the way up to Mahoning Street. At times, when Mill St. was being paved the stands were set up on both sides of Lower Mulberry Street to Pine Street.
Local farmers and hucksters peddled their produce through the town. During this time the supply was irregular and the prices uncertain. The ‘Montour American’, a weekly Danville newspaper persistently urged the advantages of a regular market under the regulations of the town authorities. The Curbside Market was officially established on April 19, 1872. The 1872 ordinance forbade the sale of tainted foods and the hawking of produce on the street, except for fish and oysters. It also provided a penalty for the light weights or ‘short’ measures. The Market ordinance set the place for the Market as Mill Street, extending from Spruce to Mahoning Streets.
Wagons came from as far as Washingtonville and Turbotville. From Turbotville the farmers had almost a 24 hour round trip. At first, each wagon was charged a dime for a market berth. The fee rose to twenty cents for those selling regular produce and twenty–five cents if meat was offered. In 1969 the costs were forty cents and fifty-five cents respectively, and this also covered the parking meter cost. Prior to the use of automobiles, the farm produce was brought to market in horse drawn wagons. The wagons were backed up to the curb, the horses unhitched and taken to a nearby livery stable such as Dan Frazier’s Livery behind the City Hotel (now Danville’s Borough building) or to the Montour Hotel livery across from the Courthouse or tied to area hitching posts. In the beginning the market would stay open until all the produce was sold. The ordinance set the closing time to 11:00am so Mill Street could be open the rest of the day. If the farmers were not sold out of their products, they were allowed to peddle through town.
An early county history says that Market Street was so named because of Market Square, the area of ground that lies southeast of Market Street, between Ferry and the Christ Episcopal Church. At one time this land had been set aside by the town authorities as the place for holding a farm produce market center. This idea was not popular with the local residents and was never used for its designated purpose.
During the 1930’s Mr. Earle M Deibert, who owned a large store building, converted the lower floor of the building and offered it as the ‘Farmer’s Market House’. It never became popular due to not only the building’s location but also because of the tradition of the Market on Mill Street.
During the height of the fruit and vegetable seasons it was not unusual to count one hundred or more stands along the curb. Then along came the Super Markets with their large offerings of produce and meats and the curbstone market became less patronized. The beginning of June, started up the tradition of the Farmer’s Market once again. Danville opened a new farmer’s market on Saturdays along Ferry Street where you can purchase fresh farm produce, delicious baked goods and cut flowers for your home. For over 100 years, Danville’s farmer’s market continues, please support our local farmers and keep this tradition going.