History of The Bean Market

Photos by:

NDC Photography and from Lynches Lake Historical Society Archives

History of The Bean Market

February 15, 2021

The National Bean Market Museum or simply, The Bean Market, is housed in the Historic Lake City Municipal Produce Market building.  This structure was erected in 1936 with funds from the Public Works Administration. Known by many names, the most popular among the farmers and community is ‘The Bean Market’.  At one time this market was the largest string bean auction market in the world and the fourth largest truck produce auction market in the nation.


During the 1930s when most of the nation was devastated by the Great Depression, the Lake City community gained economic stability through the success of ‘The Bean Market.’  Farmers from area communities lined up for miles to sell their produce hoping for a good day at the market. The life of the market spanned for three decades and placed Lake City on the map of commerce in South Carolina.


Before any structure was established, produce was originally sold on ‘the platform’ located west of the existing building at the railway depot.  In 1934 prior to the construction of the current brick building, a wooden structure was erected on the corner of Henry and Church Streets. In 1935 once Federal funding was available through the PWA, the City of Lake City, under the direction of Mayor Jack Dalziel, passed an Ordinance to secure a bond to provide funding for the Municipal Market project. By the 1936 produce season, the ‘Bean Market’ opened for business.


The ‘Bean Market’ auction process remained a unique experience for local farmers and buyers.  Market managers rang a large bell at the far end of the building to signify the start of each sale.  The phrase, “It’s sale time boys, let’s line `em up”, began the auction.  Next, farmers supplied a sample crate of produce and waited for the auctioneers to start the bidding.  While buyers made their purchase, ticket markers tagged the sales. Finally, each buyer had a receiving station where the produce was held for inspection. A misrepresentative sample caused the initial auction sale to be rejected.  


By 1956 the City of Lake City turned the management of the market over to the Produce Marketing Association of Lake City, which included farmers and buyers.  The active operation of the ‘Bean Market’ ended in the late 1960s due to several deciding factors. Many of the original buyers and supporters of the market had passed away, other towns and cities started their own produce auctions, and tobacco had become more dominate as a market crop.  After the close of the market, Lake City became known as a tobacco town. As a result, the farmers viewed produce, especially beans and cucumbers, as filler crops.


From the late 1960s to the 1990s, the City of Lake City used the ‘Bean Market’ for storage and modified the structure to accommodate that function. The Community Museum Society Inc. purchased the building from the City of Lake City in 1999.  With a clear vision and a dedicated mission, The Society named the building and its operation “The National Bean Market Museum of South Carolina”. Through these actions, the Society forged an avenue to preserve the community’s history and promote the pride in our famous heritage.


The Golden Bean Basket Exhibit represents the pride and fortuity of the successful collaboration between farmers and businessmen within the community during the mid 1930s.  Commissioned by the Community Museum Society Inc, this sculpture was created by renowned Texas artist, Garland Weeks, whose works appear at Brookgreen Gardens and Buckingham Palace. The sculpture is cast in bronze and hand finished in gold leaf.


The Golden Bean Basket is a tribute to the vision and the passion of the founding father of the Society, Mr. Eugene T. Moore.  While serving the community for many years as an educator and administrator, Mr. Moore influenced the citizens of the area with his love of history and knowledge.  The Bean Market celebrates the history, culture and arts of the citizens of Lake City and the surrounding communities and preserves the spirit of our founding father.