Touted as "modern market in the country," and now considered an early prototype for suburban shopping centers, the North Avenue Market opened in 1928 with 12 retail stores and 22 lane bowling alley on the second floor at a cost of $1,850,000.The site of the market between Charles Street and Maryland Avenue had originally been the site of two country houses (including one used by Confederate General Robert E. Lee) but thanks the rapid development of north Baltimore in the early twentieth century the new market drew in 50,000 visitors on its opening day and soon attracted more than 200 grocery vendors.
After WWII, however, as many industrial businesses began to leave the area, the market began to decline and only 30 of the stalls were occupied when a destructive 6-alarm fire in August 1968 shut down a portion of the market and led to substantial changes for the building. The fire, which started in the Woodlawn Lunch stall, was so hot that it cracked glass display cases and caused canned food to explode. A crowd of 800 residents gathered to watch the fire, tragically including elderly market manager, George Horshoff, suffered a heart attack and collapsed while viewing the damage and died shortly after. Two of the main factors in the extensive destruction caused by the fire were a lack of a sprinkler system and the sheet metal window guards, which obstructed fire fighters trying to enter the building.
After the fire, the market was purchased by James and Carolyn Frenkil, owners of the Center City, Inc., development company, who planned to reopen a portion of the market over the next six years and sold the northern portion of the building to be developed into high-rise senior citizen housing. The northern portion of the market was razed to accommodate the 17-story retirement home. The remaining part of the building was turned into a supermarket which opened in 1974.
Despite efforts to rejuvenate the building or redevelop any of the property, the heart of the building was closed off and vacant for nearly 40 years following the fire. In 2008, a $1 million project for the building was launched to restore the building as an "arts-focused mix of shops, eateries, and offices." The rehabilitation process for the property is still ongoing, but has been successful so far. In 2012 the continued rehabilitation project for the market was awarded grant money from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development as well as from the Central Baltimore Partnership. The newest plans for the space include new paint, addition lighting, and re-opening exterior windows that were covered decades ago.