The York Central Market has been in continuous operation since it was constructed in 1888. It was designed by locally prominent architect John Dempwolf who also designed numerous buildings in the area. Dempwolf created a massive, 35,000 square-foot red brick building in the Romanesque Revival style complete with a hipped roof with steep gable dormers and projecting front pieces. To give the building stature, he placed two three-story towers with pyramid roofs at either side of its main entrance. Today, the market is home to over 50 vendors who sell a variety of food items, from restaurant-style meals to fresh produce, meat and fish. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
The purpose behind York Central Market’s existence was to create a controlled area where merchants and hagglers could sell their wears and stock to the hungry citizens of the new city. It was also built to keep up with the increasing population of York. The original men who came up with the idea to build York Central Market were William, John, and Richard Penn. After 40 years of use, the sheds that made up York Central Market were showing their age and instead of looking like a proud city market, looked more like an ugly shantytown complete with sheds and abandoned wagons. Noell, the mayor of York City at the time, wanted these sheds destroyed and an enclosed market house befitting the city constructed. In 1928, a vote was quickly taken and the resolution to demolish the sheds passed 5-4. To build a new market place, it cost around $45, 000.00.
Citizens of York thrived on the idea of demolishing the sheds and frantically joined in destroying them. A dentist, Dr. James A. Dale, became quiet excited at the prospect of seeing these eyesores demolished and, in his agitated state, he seized a fire axe from his store wall and took a mighty swing at one of the market shed’s wooden pillars. Unfortunately for the good doctor, his blow was off the mark and instead of cutting into the supporting timber, the axe struck its iron support, which caused the axe to rebound, and a large piece chipped out of its blade, which struck him squarely in the head, knocking him unconscious.
York's Central Market was ahead of the curve regarding plumbing and indoor bathrooms as it was one of the first buildings in York to have both. Even now it is more than just a nice place to go get coffee with friends; it is one of the crown jewels of York which serves as a community center and hub. During York's First Friday celebrations, the market hosts special events from live music to pumpkin festivals. Currently, its 50-plus vendors are divided into several categories: baked goods, dining, produce, beverages, services, specialty goods, meat, fish & deli and vegan/gluten free. York Central Market recently underwent a $2 million renovation during which its electrical, plumbing and heating systems were updated, new lighting and doors were added and its mezzanine was upgraded.