The history of the Georgetown Market site dates back to the Revolutionary War period, when a butcher's market occupied part of the present property. This market was later replaced by the Georgetown debtor's jail, which was removed in 1795 to complete a new frame market house. As the town continued to grow, the frame market was demolished a year later, and finally, a larger, more substantial market was constructed from voluntary contributions on an expanded site.
The entire property was acquired by the Georgetown Corporation from Adam King and John Mitchell in 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..." The site functioned as a traditional market but also held auctions in the basement for the sale of enslaved persons. By the end of the Civil War, this 1796 market, which 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. Those stalls that required refrigeration such as butchers, fish mongers, and dairy farmers 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 used the building for non-market purposes for 25 years. Dean and Deluca, a gourmet food and gift store, continued the Georgetown Market's original plan for the place until their closure in 2019.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Register: May 6, 1971
Within Georgetown Historic District
This site is included in the Capital City Slavery Tour for its role as an auction site for enslaved persons. For further information on slavery in the District, view DC Preservation League's Capital City Slavery Digital Exhibit.