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Soulard market: A full plate of history in St. Louis

Special to the Los Angeles Times

WHAT: Soulard Farmers Market

WHERE: 730 Carroll St., at 7th and


WHY TAKE THE DETOUR: Not far from the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River stands a less iconic — but still historic — St. Louis staple: Soulard Market.

This colorful arcade, a conglomeration of farmers' stands, herb shops and novelty outlets set against an industrial backdrop, offers just about anything a foodie visitor to St. Louis could be searching for.

Ethnic foods representing this neighborhood's diverse cultural makeup? They're here. Health food or doughnuts? Yes. Genuine St. Louis barbecue sauce? Of course.

Historic favorites include Schmitz Spice Shop, a wonderful, fragrant nook walled with jars and jars of spices and herbs, and Jeannie's Flowers. Around the corner, good-natured merchants peddle fresh produce, meats, seafood, incense, jewelry and hats.

All of this started in 1838 when Julia Cerre Soulard, the widow of Upper Louisiana's surveyor general, bequeathed these two blocks to St. Louis for use in perpetuity as a public marketplace; otherwise, her heirs could reclaim the land. During the Civil War, Soulard Market was a Union military camp. In 1877, the upstairs hall turned into a Presbyterian mission serving local immigrant communities.

Today, this lively stop in a National Register of Historic Places district adds a welcome dimension to any St. Louis itinerary.

GETTING THERE: From Interstate 55 or Interstate 44, exit at 7th Street/Park Avenue and follow the signs.

DETAILS: (314) 622-4180, Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Free admission.

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