The history of the market site goes back to the Revolutionary period when a butcher's market occupied part of the present property. This market was later replaced by the Georgetown debtor's jail. In 1795 the jail was removed to complete a new frame market house. Because of the town's growth, the frame market was demolished a year later, and a larger, more substantial market was constructed from voluntary contributions on an expanded site.
The entire property was not finally acquired by the Georgetown Corporation from Adam King and John Mitchell until 1803. One of the stipulations of King's deed was that the site was "for the use of the market aforesaid, forever, and for no other use, interest or purpose whatsoever..." By the end of the Civil War, this 1796 market, which f had been enlarged several times during the heyday of the C&O Canal, was so dilapidated that it was razed.
The present market was erected in 1865. The architect is unknown and no plans of the building exist. The Georgetown Corporation operated the market until Georgetown was incorporated into the District of Columbia in 1871. The market was then administered by the District Government. Stall of butchers, fish mongers and dairy farmers requiring refrigeration were located against the interior walls of the market. Butter stalls generally stood in the center. Produce was sold at outside stands.
In 1935, when the District Commissioners wanted to get out of the market business, they were restrained by the provisions of King's deed. Hoping to nullify these restrictions by renting the building to private firms, the commissioners first leased the building to a private meat market and then in 1945 to Southern Distributors Inc., a wholesale automobile supply parts distributor which has used the building for non-market purposes for 25 years.