The Way It Was — Eastern Market

Take a closer look at this photo of Eastern Market circa 1937.
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

1937 For 132 years, farmers like the ones shown here on Aug. 14, 1937, working tirelessly at the crack of dawn, have hauled tons of fresh produce to Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Today, on a typical Saturday, up to 40,000 people enjoy the colorful and festive market while strolling through five large sheds and loading carts, wagons, and bags with fresh vegetables, fruits, spices, cheeses, condiments, and specialty food items produced by farms in Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.

Located approximately 1 mile northeast of downtown Detroit and bounded by Gratiot and Mack avenues with Russell Street serving as the main thoroughfare, it is one of the nation’s oldest and largest open-air markets.

The Detroit farmers market began in 1841 at Cadillac Square downtown, east of Woodward Avenue, before moving to its present location, the site of an early hay and wood market. In 1891, it was renamed Eastern Market.

The beloved marketplace draws a diverse population of all ages and backgrounds from the inner city, suburbs, and surrounding small towns and is celebrated for annually hosting several events, including the popular Flower Day held on the Sunday after Mother’s Day, a time-honored tradition since 1967.

The Eastern Market district encompasses over 150 businesses within six city blocks in a 43-acre area that includes popular restaurants, boutiques, and specialty food shops and draws an estimated 2 million visitors annually.

The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Operational control of the market was spun off from the city of Detroit to the nonprofit Eastern Market Corp. in 2006. Since then, millions of dollars have been invested in the infrastructure and renovation of the sheds.

This story is from the August 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition. Plus, find even more The Way It Was articles at