The Chippewa Market was also called the Washington Street Market during its lifetime. A city-owned market, one of a number
across the city, it opened in 1856. In the above photo, St. Michael's Catholic Church is located adjacent to the market and made
a devout woman's morning tasks convenient. Next to the church is the original location of Canisius College. And mid-block is
the Market Arcade, a unique indoor office structure that made an easy passage from Main Street to the market.
40 Years in the Market Place, She Longs for the Old Days
Times Were Hard and Winters Bitter, but Mrs. Burkhardt Enjoyed It, She Says Now
by Ethel M. Hoffman, Buffalo Times April 3, 1931
Forty Easters is a long time to be in one place. Too long for some people. Not Margaret Kramer Burkhardt, though. She's been selling vegetables on the Washington Market for that length of time and she says she's good for fifty more.
She looks it. Small and round and merry, with eyes and lips that smile together and capable, ruddy hands that have never known a mitten. With curly gray-brown hair that still prefers a nubia [knitted head scarf] to a hat.
She loves the market. The hustle and bustle of buying and selling. The cold. The camaraderie of folks from neighboring stands coming in to fry their noon steak on your coal stove. The bright unshaded bulbs hanging on long cords above counters piled with the crisp dampness of celery, lettuce and radishes. Her daughters, Mrs. Fred Young and Mrs. E. A. Derschierl, love it, too. They boast of being practically born in the market "shack," the way acting families boast of dressing room births. But when they start getting too uppity about their connection with the market tradition, Mrs. Burkhardt snubs them.
"Poof! Today being on the market is nothing.
"Now, when I began, for instance..." Her brown eyes grow dreamy and she becomes little Maggie Kramer again, 11 years old, getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning and walking from her home in Brown and Jefferson Streets to the market.
She worked for a coffee shop on the market at first. She used to hook six "tasses" of boiling hot coffee on five crooked fingers and go streaking across Chippewa Street to the commission houses that at that time lined the street. For at least an hour she weaved back and forth until all the jolly red-faced burghers in the dim spice-scented stores were fed. At noon she repeated the process, this time with soup and rolls. (Cont'd)
The market at that time was a far different place than it is today. It had no roof and very few shacks. The people brought shovels and brooms in winter to make a space to set out their wares. Those with horses and wagons took their produce back and forth to their homes night and morning. Others rented cellars in Ellicott and Oak Streets and hauled their vegetables to and from the market in barrels. These cellars were a handy place to which to retreat in case of the sudden and terrible blizzards that used to frequent the city in those years.
"Winter...!" Mrs. Burkhardt shudders. "When we had progressed to shacks we also acquired charcoal stoves. One of us would go inside and heat a board and bring it out for us to stand on while we were selling. Then it was the other saleslady's turn. We would jump up and down on it and flap our arms." (Cont'd)
After a few years at the coffee shop, Mrs. Burkhardt's father died and she and her mother bought a crockery concession on Chippewa Street. When Mrs. Kramer married Jacob Wiese, however, the entire Kramer family went to selling flowers and vegetables once more. John Kramer, Mrs. Burkhardt's brother, pedalled the deliveries on his bicycle. Young Maggie and her sisters sold. Maggie had the special responsibility of buying also.
The market in those days opened at about 4 o'clock in the morning and by noon the selling was over.
"Why, at 5 o'clock in the morning our aisles were as crowded in those days as they are today at 2 p.m." Mrs. Burkhardt waved pityingly at the throngs of soft-bodied market shoppers, laden with Easter supplies.
"Look at them. They come in here late and they buy only half of what they used to. And deliver? They want to have a yeast cake delivered. In the old days, we didn't even have bags. People brought their own baskets."
In the afternoons, Mrs. Burkhardt used to take the horse and wagon and make the rounds of the nearby farms, picking up fresh eggs and vegetables for the following day. When the horse was in good humor, everything went well, but one day he got balky and it was a very weary young Maggie indeed, who staggered over the town line, having led the unfeeling brute by the bridle all the way from Clarence.
Maggie used to kill chickens in the afternoons, too. As many as two and three hundred in holiday seasons. (Cont'd)
At seventeen, the young Maggie married William Burkhardt, wood carver. He carved her a solid walnut dining room suite for a wedding present. For 19 long, happy years they worked and played together and brought up their two daughters, Martha and Rose. Mrs. Burkhardt had bought her own vegetable stall in the meantime and every morning she rode throught the deserted streets in the gray dawn with the reins of her horse thrown about her neck. Every morning. Even when the children were small. In fact, it was Martha, I think, who came near being born in the wagon. Twenty minutes more and she would have been a forerunner of those unfortunate infants who are always being born in airplanes or aboard ship.
Mrs. Burkhardt lives on Humboldt Parkway today. She rides to work at about 7 o'clock in a Cadillac...sitting in the back seat with a lynx scarf around her neck.
And she wishes the old days were here again. When people paid for their merchandise in silver dollars, which were taken home in baskets, dumped into pails in the woodshed and covered with a few inches of bluing to mislead burglars. When Pidgeon Adams's stand had a leaky roof and he came in one spring morning after a rain to find three bushels of beans had heeded the Lord's behest to increase and multiply and had become six. When a sudden gale caught Irish Mary's pushcard loaded with stale hard candy and truddled it as far as Main and Chippewa. When a runaway horse bolted through the market and knocked over everyone's horseradish machine. Whe automobiles were scarce and roadstands not at all.
"Those were the days!" The young Maggie Kramer looks out of Mrs. Burkhardt's eyes and pities Mrs. Burkhard's daughters.
In 1940, there were 440 stands. The market was demolished in the 1960's and the area is now a parking lot.
Image source: Google
Here is another view of the market in the 1880's.
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