Work will begin in a few weeks to stabilize York's oldest market house, a 145-year-old building plagued by a crumbling façade and a roof that's leaked for decades.
Nearly half a million dollars will be spent this summer to reverse the deteriorating effects that decades of deferred maintenance have had on Farmers' Market, located at the corner of Penn and West Market streets.
Parts of the market's roof, still visible from inside, date to 1866. In the old days, the market's keepers patched leaks not by replacing the roof but by covering it with new layers, said Terry Downs, the market's new chief operating officer.
Downs -- a York native with a background in historic architecture -- said he figures there are at least three layers of shingles on top of the original wooden shakes, a type of shingle.
"It's just a lot of weight bearing down," Downs said. "If things soon didn't happen, the roof would fail and the market would be gone."
The original building is still standing, surrounded by the added walls of at least four different expansions, Downs said.
Individuals with a stake in the market began meeting about three years ago to strategize a comeback for the facility, eventually drafting a "wish list" of 19 items. Their efforts paid off earlier this year with the award of a $480,000 grant that will fund a new roof, new bathrooms and façade improvements -- three of the 19 wishes.
"We don't have the vibrancy that we once did," Downs said. "We are trying to recapture some of that."
History: The market had been privately owned for most of its 145-year history, Downs said. Then, in 1975, some farmers who sold goods at the market banded together to rescue the market from demolition. A petroleum com-
pany had offered to buy the property and turn it into a gas station.
The farmers pooled their resources and bought the building instead, Downs said. But little has been done since then to maintain the property or the market's relationship with the community, he added.
The renovation plan includes the return of a skylight in the market's dark quadrant nearest West Market Street. The skylight -- essentially a window in the roof that lets daylight shine in -- was covered up sometime in the 1950s, Downs said.
"I suspect it became a maintenance issue," he said. "That will make this much more bright and cheerful."
The market's restrooms, which date to the 1920s, will get a complete overhaul. And, finally, workers will rebuild the market's "wing walls," where the building's brick façade has begun to buckle.
Construction will finish sometime in the fall, Downs said.
The market -- which is open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays -- will operate as usual throughout the project, Downs said.
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.