On the east side of the Plaza, opposite Ponce de Leon Circle, is a
pavilion-like structure, consisting of a massive roof supported by a large
square column. For over 100 years this building served the city of St.
Augustine as a public market. The market was established during the
early days of Spanish occupation to meet the business needs of the small
village, which lay protectively huddled near the fort. The present
structure dates from 1824. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1887,
and was rebuilt the following year. Following the restoration, it
continued to be used as the principal center of barter until recent years.
The market had other uses than trade. During slavery it was a
tribunal, and slaves were often punished there by public whippings.
During the early days the Plaza adjoining the market was the
center of the social life of St. Augustine. However, the early morning
hours were devoted to business. The market was filled with produce
from the nearby farms. Sailing vessels docked in the old rectangular
basin on the waterfront a short distance from the market to discharge
their cargoes. Barter was rapid, because the rising sun regulated the
hours of sale. Sea foods, perishable produce, had to be sold before the
arrival of midday heat. Around the noon hour the activity would cease,
and the remaining wares were removed. A city ordinance required that
the market should, after the sales had been completed, be meticulously
cleaned. The afternoon wore on and the odors were removed by the
thorough cleaning. The market was now ready to serve the legal and
social phases of old St. Augustine.