For much of the 20th century, the place to go for fresh produce in Chattanooga was an open-air market on 11th Street where farmers from across Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia came to sell the fruits of their labor.
It went by a couple of names: Curb Market and the 11th Street Farmers Market. It was called Curb Market because, in the old days, farmers backed their trucks onto a curb to display their farm products.
This photo is part of a collection of historic images at ChattanoogaHistory.com. Sam Hall, curator of the website, said the photo was shared by Roger Dotson, a former owner of the market. The photo was taken in 1981 when the market was still a busy hub of activity.
In the 1970s, perhaps the peak of the 11th Street Farmers Market's popularity, up to 100 farmers a day would sell tomatoes, potatoes, peas and other vegetables (and fruits) from trucks or permanent stalls. Sales spiked during the spring, summer and fall, according to news reports, but there were some vegetable stands that remained open year-round.
Chattanooga News-Free Press reporter Merry Lynn Starling wrote in a feature story in 1978: "Today's Farmer's Market, or Curb Market as most people call it, is little changed from the market that was established approximately 50 years ago. The wood stalls are still there, the farmers in their overalls, the bushel baskets of farm produce. Only the prices and the farming and hauling methods have changed drastically."
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.
If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
As an example of inflation: A May 29, 1949, photo caption in the Chattanooga Times noted that the market had a fresh crop of Florida watermelons selling for $1 each.
According to Chattanooga newspaper archives, the 11th Street Farmers Market operated from the 1930s to the early 2000s. The city of Chattanooga purchased the property in 2006 for $775,000 under a plan by then-Mayor Ron Littlefield to build a campus that would serve the homeless.
The area was later named the Gene Roberts Public Service Complex in honor of former Chattanooga Mayor Gene Roberts. Roberts, who grew up in the area, died in 2013. When Roberts was a boy, the area was known as Onion Bottom. It was so-named, according to press reports, because it was the site of a city dump that frequently caught fire and smelled like onions.
The property was later developed to include "a police station, a transportation hub for the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency and headquarters of Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga," according to Times Free Press archives.
Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.