A History of the Los Angeles Farmers MarketOne of our favorite stops is the Los Angeles Farmers Market. We often have to explain that it’s not a farmers’ market like many are used to, with local farmers under temporary tents selling fruits and vegetables. It’s an LA institution with many mom and pop take away restaurants, shops, candy stores, and even celebrity sightings! We bring people there on most of our Los Angeles tours because it provides a quick lunch stop with almost any type of food for picky eaters (and kids!). It’s also right next to the famous Grove shopping mall, which is one of the most lively shopping spots in Los Angeles.
So let’s find out how the Farmers Market got here….
The popular phrase, “Meet me at 3rd and Fairfax” is common among Los Angeles residents who frequent the historical LA Farmers Market. Locals and tourists alike have been shopping and eating with family and friends at this splendid location for almost 80 years now. The LA Farmers Market has not lost its sparkle yet as more people are visiting to experience the good food and the pleasant, unpretentious fun that the Farmers Market is known for.
Before there was a Farmer’s Market, the land located in the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles was once a part of a tract of land owned by Arthur Fremont Gilmore. The land was originally acquired to be used as a dairy farm.
At the turn of the century, in an attempt to drill water from the underground, to his surprise Gilmore instead discovered oil. It was due to this discovery that the dairy farm was replaced by Gilmore Oil Company. A.F. Gilmore’s son Earl Bell soon took over the oil company in 1905.
In the 1930s, local farmers, desperate during the difficult days of the Depression, started selling their produce to local housewives on the dirt roads of 3rd and Fairfax. They pulled their trucks up to this intersection, and found a good deal of success at this location. Gilmore charged them 50 cents a day for a space on his land. The number of vendors quickly grew from 18 original farmers until merchants decided to build permanent stalls that formed the beginning of the Farmers Market as we know it today. Soon the market was filled with shops and restaurants and became a popular shopping and meeting place. In 1934 they held the first annual Fall Festival, which is still observed today.
In 1934 Gilmore also constructed Gilmore Stadium, a multi-purpose facility with midget racing – to promote the use of oil — and American football.
Gilmore Field, home to the Hollywood Stars, a AAA minor-league baseball team, opened in 1939. It was one of the most intimate professional baseball stadiums in the country. Among the owners were some of the biggest celebrities of the time, including Bing Crosby, Barbara Stanwyck, and Cecil DeMille. Baseball fans as well as players often went straight to LA Farmers Market before and after games. With the arrival of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1958, the Hollywood Stars were no longer viable and Gilmore Field was torn down.
Next to the Farmers Market, developers opened the commercial building dubbed as The Dell. The Dell offered business and commercial space for businessmen and vendors. The location is now famous as the home of the famous Farmers Market clock towers.
In 1950 the Gilmore Company sold a portion of its property to CBS, and in 1952 CBS constructed Television City on the old Gilmore Stadium grounds. Television City was the first television studio on the West Coast and still stands there today. The Farmers Market soon become a hotspot for celebrity sightings, as just next door iconic programs including The Red Skelton Show, The Carol Burnett Show, All in the Family, Three’s Company, Match Game, Welcome Back Kotter, and The Hollywood Squares. It became a convenient place for Hollywood artists and CBS personnel to shop and eat too. Today, Hollywood celebrities commonly flock the location for good eats, as a number of shows are still produced there today – including The Price is Right, The Bold and the Beautiful, Dancing with the Stars, and American Idol.
Due to the increasing number of shops and restaurants that establish their business in the LA Farmers Market, its popularity reached its peak during the 1960s. It was also around this time that LA Farmers Market became the number one tourist attraction in the city of Los Angeles. It was known to be a favorite among luminaries such as President Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, and The Beatles.
The Country Kitchen opened in the 1970s. The restaurant was owned and operated by Jack and Ellen Smith. It became very popular among Hollywood’s elite like Mickey Rooney, Elvis Presley, Regis Philbin, Mae West, Rip Taylor, Johnny Carson, and was even visited frequently by the Shah of Iran.
It was in the 1980s that the Farmers Market witnessed a surge in the number of developments within its location. There were a total of 120 shops, produce stands, and restaurants in and around the LA Farmers Market in the 80s.
Koning Eisenberg Architecture Inc. was the company that formulated the new developments for the LA Farmers Market. The project was initiated to further expand business to potential small-time farmers and office spaces. The former site of the Gimore Drive-In was converted into The Grove, which is now a popular shopping center for locals and tourists alike.
Other developments that started in the 1990s included:
• Gilmore Hisotry Kiosk
• Earl’s Service Station
• Gilmore Sports Kiosk
• Green Cart Display
• Farmers Market Clock Tower
In 2009, LA Farmers Market celebrated its 75th Anniversary. The event was marked with a grand birthday bash and the creation of LA’s largest birthday card.
To date, the corner of 3rd and Fairfax still remains one of the most favorite hang out places in LA for both the old and the new generation.