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Lake City’s Longtime National Bean Market Is Still Serving Up Fresh Fare & More 

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Photo by Hunter Deas

By Lynn Seldon

Word is spreading like kudzu that South Carolina’s crossroads town of Lake City is enjoying a modern cultural (and culinary) revival. However, thanks to downtown’s National Bean Market, Lake City has actually been at the crossroads of fresh fare for more than 75 years.

Erected in 1936 in the center of Lake City conveniently near the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad station and outbuildings, the National Bean Market was at one time the world’s largest bean auction market in the world, and the largest truck produce auction market in the nation.

During the Bean Market’s heyday, farmers would arrive with truckloads of beans and other produce to be sold and sent north by train. When other methods of getting produce to far flung markets became more popular, the National Bean Market eventually closed and fell into disrepair. But, like much of Lake City, it’s been renovated and is being put to use once again.

Renovation began in 1999, when it was slated as a community museum. Plans evolved into making it a civic center and rental facility, and the National Bean Market finally reopened to rave reviews in 2011. It’s now averaging more than 100 scheduled events annually, including farm to fork dinners and Taste of Lake City. That growing figure doesn’t even include the bustling Lake City Farmers Market held on Thursday afternoons from April to December, which moves to the nearby historic Atlantic Coast Line Warehouse when the Bean Market is hosting an event as well as when the weather turns cooler each fall.

The National Bean Market’s renewed success mirrors that of other downtown Lake City success stories, including a renovated feed and seed store that’s now a gallery, Table 118 (a locally-focused restaurant), and a boutique hotel opening mid-2014.