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Look Back: Market House opens

The Parkersburg Market House is open!

If strawberries have “played out,” festivals have not, for which the ladies of our city are to be thanked. The ladies of the M.E. Church, South will give a Raspberry Festival at the Market House to-morrow evening. All are invited. We trust that the building will be crowded, and we will guarantee a rich enjoyment to everyone.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

June 30, 1869

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The festival of the M.E. Church, South, at the Market House, last evening, was well attended and everything passed off finely. The tableaus were splendid and added interest to the occasion. The display of cakes and flowers was very fine and the ice cream the best we have tasted this year.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

July 2, 1869

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“…We would have been better pleased if the Market House had been of brick, with a large town hall and offices in it for the city officials. …”

An excerpt from a letter to the editor by David Jones, appearing in the June 1, 1870 edition of the Parkersburg Daily Times. At this time the city of Parkersburg did not have its own building in which city officials could meet.

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Following are excerpts of an item titled “Old Market House Once Was Scene of Many Activities,” by Margaret McBride and appearing in the Parkersburg Sentinel, Dec. 4, 1938. We extend appreciation to Paul Borrelli for this information:

“… It was a long squatty looking building in appearance something like city arcades and for years it was the center of much of the business life of Parkersburg.

“Built something like a hunting lodge, to the market house each morning came men and women of all walks of life to purchase food for the day or week before things were picked over. …

“There in cool shaded stalls over round oaken boulders shaven clean every day, the Hulls, Huffs and Lew Stone sold choice meats. At the open window looking out on busy Market Street, Dave Earnest sold vegetables, fresh from the farm and his attractive wife, with his brother Jack Earnest and their efficient clerk, Cliff Oliver….J. Barnes, formerly of Marietta, sold the most delicious candy, white, pink and yellow taffy.

“The market house was at one time further down Market street opposite the court house and near the old jail. The market house was transferred to the present site on Market and 5th streets.

“With the moving of the market house up the street, its tenants came also and for many years until it was torn down — The Hulls, Huffs and Chris and Henry Ahrendts and Lew Stone, each morning had a cheery greeting for their customers.

“Elias Booher, formerly of Washington, W.Va., was scale master and market master in the market house. To him the stall owners paid their rent and when a load of hay or other merchandise was brought to the city, Mr. Booher saw that they were weighed properly.

“Reuben Taylor, when asked about the old market house answered, ‘Do I remember it? Indeed I do, but I remember better the fun a crowd of us boys had when it was torn down [this would have been in the mid-1890s], killing rats. There were hundreds of them darting out from under old barrels and we had a regular massacre. You know how boys are,’ he added, as if ashamed of boy cruelty.

“Harry Lane also remembers the old market house where he had some good times and incidentally he says, it is where he first met this writer. I guess he is right about that for I seldom missed [going to market] and I still remember that delicious aroma of oyster soup, celery and oranges that met one on entering the door into the crowded hall.”

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NOTE: To my knowledge, there are no known images of the second market house; I only wish.

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Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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