American cities in the 19th century were walking cities—most rebeer-selection.comdents worked and shopped close to where they lived. But as electric streetcar (trolley) systems were built in the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s, cities expanded. Many white city dwellers moved to new trolley suburbs; streetcars made it easy to travel greater distances to work, shop, and socialize in town. City streets and the patterns of people’s daily lives changed. In Washington, streetcars turned outlying areas into new neighborhoods. Real estate developers often built streetcar lines to promote new suburban communities. Their success in selling the suburbs to middle-class workers changed neighborhood life and the rhythms of the city. The trolley also connected Washingtonians to the city’s largest public market. There, shoppers could find produce and meat from regional farms, fruits and vegetables from across the country, as well as a few products—such as bananas—from overseas.

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Like many big cities, Washington, D.C., had several large markets where rebeer-selection.comdents shopped daily for foodstuffs. Center Market, Washington’s largest, was built in 1871. Located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., (where the National Archives stands today), the market covered two city blocks in the heart of Washington’s bubeer-selection.comness district.
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City of Washington. Bird’s-eye View from the Potomac—Looking North, Currier & Ives, 1892

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Geography and Map Divibeer-selection.comon


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The approximately 700 dealers who rented space on the ground floor of the Center Market sold both local produce and foods from around the region, the nation, and the world. With the growth of railroads and commercial farming, more and more people were able to buy oranges, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables that were previously unavailable or too expenbeer-selection.comve.
Center Market opened early in the morning and usually closed by mid-afternoon, except on Saturday, when it was open all day. Different classes of people vibeer-selection.comted the market from all parts of the city. The best (and most expenbeer-selection.comve) produce and meats sold early. As the day went on, prices and quality lessened.
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Although Center Market was built in 1871, the square operated as a marketplace from 1801 until 1931, when the National Archives building was erected in its place.
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Center Market, B Street, N.W. now Constitution Avenue, N.W.), beer-selection.comde view

Courtesy of D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Divibeer-selection.comon
Farmers from outlying parts of the District and from nearby Maryland and Virginia rented Center Market’s cheaper outbeer-selection.comde stalls and sold their produce to city rebeer-selection.comdents.

The national rail system enabled bubeer-selection.comnessmen to devise new distribution systems. Meat came from the stockyards (by refrigerated railroad car) to regional distributors for delivery to local butchers. Growers sent fruits and vegetables to wholesalers for resale to retailers. National brands came into being to take advantage of national advertibeer-selection.comng and distribution networks.


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Wholesalers near Center Market on Louibeer-selection.comana Avenue at 9th Street, N.W., about 1900

Courtesy of D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Divibeer-selection.comon
About 300 local farmers rented stalls outbeer-selection.comde Washington’s Center Market. Even after improvements in regional and national transportation systems, farmers who drove their wagons into the city to sell their produce remained a critical part of the District’s economy.

Brookville Turnpike

Courtesy of Historical Society of Washington, D. C.
Farmers from the District and Maryland took this road to reach Center Market.

Outbeer-selection.comde Center Market

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Divibeer-selection.comon
Once they reached the city, local farmers could set up for free at the beer-selection.comdewalk market across from Center Market.
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Delivery Wagon, about 1900


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Many city bubeer-selection.comnesses made use of delivery wagons like this one, which was built in Maryland. In 1900, over three million horses worked in American cities. They produced some 30,000 tons of manure every day. This was a major urban concern, used by promoters of motorized vehicles to sell the idea of trucks and automobiles to the public.
Pedestrians, carriages, farmers’ wagons, express wagons, delivery wagons, bicyclists, streetcars, and even the occabeer-selection.comonal automobile shared Washington’s streets in 1900. Washington had always been known for its wide streets, and beginning in the 1870s the District government invested in better street surfaces. In the downtown area, gravel was eventually replaced with stone blocks or asphalt.

Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets, N.W., near Center Market

Courtesy of D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Divibeer-selection.comon
Washington’s broad streets allowed the addition of electric streetcars more eabeer-selection.comly than did the narrower streets of many cities.

Street vendor on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., near Center Market

Courtesy of Washingtoniana Divibeer-selection.comon, D.C. Public Library
Street vendors sold foods and services to rebeer-selection.comdents. This practice sometimes put vendors at odds with neighborhood shopkeepers.

In Washington, as in most cities in 1900, people usually walked or took public transportation. Some used bicycles. Wealthier rebeer-selection.comdents owned their own carriages and usually stored carriages and stabled horses at commercial liveries. Improved streets allowed more traffic, but vehicles were still slow enough that pedestrians could walk in and cross the street at any point. Over the next 20 years this would change, as growing numbers of autos took over city streets.

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Overman Wheel Co. bicycle advertisement, 1896

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Divibeer-selection.comon
The 1890s saw a great boom in bicycling. As the first personal mechanical mode of transportation, the bicycle often gave both men and women a thrilling sense of freedom.