Outside the main hall, along half the building’s perimeter, stand long hallways lined with produce vendors. Sellers yell to catch the attention of passersby, promising the juiciest fruit and the best deals. Loud voices make deals and hands exchange money over mounds of oranges. To walk down the aisles, inside or outside, is to take a trip through Cleveland’s past and present -- you're not just reminded where you came from, you're reminded where your grandparents came from, and where your grandchildren will hopefully one day reflect on an even longer bloodline.
It can seem hard to believe, now that the demise of manufacturing and the American middle class seem to be the talking heads’ topics du jour, but the (unfortunately) dubbed “Rust Belt” cities along Lake Erie were once hubs of trade and industry. Now-slighted cities like Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland boomed in the early 20th century, drawing people, many of them European immigrants, from the East Coast with the promise of jobs and prosperity. The West Side Market, municipally owned and erected in 1912 to replace a nearby aging market, represented the gastronomic diversity of the city’s new population.
To give a sense of the cultural capital the city invested in its new food bazaar, planners hired the same architects who designed the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland's great, Progressive Era effort to create an extraordinary (not to mention affordable) hub for the entire community -- people of every background, from the East Side and West Side -- has proven so enduring, the American Planning Association recognized the Market as one of their "Great Public Spaces" almost a full century later. Also on that list: Central Park.