Lake City bean market rebuilt with old charm

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Driving past the old bean market in Lake City, you'd have no idea the impact that single building had on the economy, not just within the city, but up and down the east coast.

As Lake City continues to evolve and revamp, the old bean market is getting a second chance at life.

"The story is told, and if you stay here very long you will here, that there were lines of farmers waiting for miles out in every direction of Lake City waiting to get into this building," says Sylvia Gowdy.

It was 1936 when Lake City opened up the farmers market. Little did they know, this move was a game changer.

"It really became an overnight success."

Until the late sixties, Lake City became the hub for buying and selling produce.

It quickly became the largest bean market in the world, and the fourth largest market of other produce like strawberries, cucumbers and squash.

"It's centrally located as a half way point between your Florida growers and your northern markets, so it was a great spot for the buyers to come down and finish up their loads for their companies," explains Sherrie Moore, Associate Director National Bean Market Museum.

After decades of unfathomable success, business began to wilt and eventually the building sat empty.

Then in 1998, with the vision of Gene Moore and others, the Community Museum Society snatched it up, giving this historical building a second chance.

Moore adds, "The building has just transpired into this really lovely, community civic center type spot."

It took a lot of man hours and money to get the old bean market to where it is now, blending modern conveniences with the past.

"The dark planes that you see are original timbers and the new ones that you see are actually from a sawmill not far from here," states Moore.

Seventy-five percent of the ceiling was salvaged, which now offers a charm you can't replicate these days.

The marred beams are a reminder of the undeniable history that occurred within these walls so many years ago. And it makes you wonder what they'd say if they could talk.

Although you can no longer hear the chants of the auctioneers within the walls of the old bean market, it's been transformed into the chatter and the laughter of folks who enjoy the space for a much different reason.

And, yes, they still sell beans once a week during the farmers market. You can stop by the National Bean Market Museum every Thursday from 2-7 p.m.

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