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Ask Chicagoist: Is Maxwell Street Market Still Around?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Feb 12, 2007 2:00PM

Is Maxwell St. Market still at Canal/Roosevelt and if so, does it go on throughout the winter?


2007_02_askmaxwell.jpgHi Julie!

The quick answer to your question is "yes." Maxwell Street Market is still there, and it goes on year round. Chicagoist even shows up once in awhile. Every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. along Canal Street at Roosevelt, even when there's a wind chill of 25 below, 450 vendors line the street (and even more vie weekly for the limited spaces) to sell their wares and serve up Mexican food. Plus, when it's a little more reasonable outside weather-wise, there's live music.

We should quickly point out that the market hasn't always been in that exact location, and for that reason is officially referred to as the New Maxwell Street Market. Historically speaking, the market, which was once the largest open-air market in the country, was on (not too surprisingly) Maxwell Street, just a few blocks west of where it is now. Founded in the 1870s, it was a place Chicago's immigrant community could go to start to earn their livelihood in the city. Pretty much everything, legal and illegal, was sold at one point on Maxwell Street, creating a vibrant community and social gathering place.

The city of Chicago moved the market in 1994 to its current location, causing quite a bit of controversy. UIC wanted the take over the market in order to expand, and had actually been slowly creeping into the area since 1965, gradually shrinking the size of the market until finally officially moving it with the backing of Daley in 1994. Community activists tried to make the area an official historical landmark in 1994 and 2000, but failed. The historical location aside, one of the biggest complaints about the current location is that it lacks the "flavor" that the historical market had.

Hopefully this news will help remedy that — the market's slated to move one more time in September of this year to its permanent home (so says the city) on Desplaines from Roosevelt to Harrison. Well, maybe we should believe them this time, as the plans include an official entry gate at Roosevelt and Canal, 85 more spaces for vendors, permanent booths, street banners (oooh), and sponsorship opportunities which they promise doesn't mean the name will be changed to something like "The Chase Bank Market." With any luck this is a true sign that Chicago's finally behind the history of Maxwell Street (even when it's not actually on Maxwell Street).

So enjoy the market next weekend, Julie, if you want. We'll probably wait until spring before heading over there, but it's nice to know that if you don't mind the cold it'll be there.

New Maxwell Street Market image via stu_spivack.

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