Your Town Friday: Indianapolis City Market

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Indianapolis, Ind. - Get on your party hats! Your Town Friday is showcasing a special birthday celebration at downtown Indy's first and only public market house.

The Indianapolis City Market you know today has come a long way.

The current location dates back to 1821 when Alexander Ralston's "Plat of the Town of Indianapolis" dedicated a parcel of land for market use. A small building was constructed on this site, but as Indianapolis continued to grow, it quickly became apparent that more space was needed for the sale of meats and produce.

In 1886, a local architect designed a structure made of stone walls and cement flooring. It cost $29,000. The same year, Tomlinson Hall opened next door with great fanfare, soaring 55 feet in the air. The lower floor was for vendors. The upper floor was an auditorium. Herbert Hoover and Ray Charles were just two of the notable people to take the stage.

Tomlinson Hall was the first convention center of its kind in Indianapolis. Any time there was a public gathering for any reason, it was in Tomlinson Hall. Tomlinson Hall contained an auditorium, gymnasium, and meeting rooms, as well as retail and vegetable stands on the ground floor. It was considered to be the "Market Square Arena" of its time, as it was used for political, patriotic, and labor rallies, concerts, a theater, sporting events, and other large public functions.

Soon more than 25,000 shoppers visited every Saturday, piling their wagons high with fruits and vegetables.

"I was eight years old and I worked selling shopping bags," said 94-year-old Santa Bayt.

Bayt sold those bags until she got married 20 years later. That's when she started making fruit baskets to sell.

"The best thing about being at the City Market was that you met a lot of people and very many of them were very wonderful people."

In 1958 there was a disaster. Tomlinson Hall was consumed by fire and destroyed.

There was another significant renovation in 1972. Wings and upper walkway systems were added and the market reopened for business six years later.

In 2010, the City of Indianapolis invested $3.5 million into renovations.

Now, the City Market is celebrating its 130th birthday with a big party and formal gala.

Bayt will be honored at the gala for her 65 years as a City Market fixture.

"I think it's a very wonderful thing, but I wasn't expecting anything!"

The birthday celebration starts at 5 p.m.  It's family-friendly and free. There will be cake, carnival-like games and a special birthday brew for adults.

The celebration concludes with the 2016 MRKT BALL – a revival of Indianapolis City Market’s famed, ‘To Market, To Market’ Ball on Dec. 10. Featuring a World’s Fair and Victorian-era steam punk theme - a tribute to the era of the establishment of the Market House in 1886 - the MRKT BALL is a black-tie or costumed gala benefitting Indianapolis City Market.

Guests of the MRKT BALL will be able to stroll through the historic Market House and enjoy the captivating sounds of local musical performers, view contest entries from the 2016 MRKT BALL poster design contest, sample food tastings courtesy of Market House merchants, view a historical exhibition of Market House treasures, shop an artisan craft market and play carnival-style games. A variety of performances, activities and other events will continue in the Market House throughout the duration of the evening.