What is a Wholesale District?

A wholesale district is an area where a compact cluster of intermediary entities that buy in bulk and sell to resellers rather than to consumers are located. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of wholesale districts filled with public market, warehouses and distribution centers developed around rail lines across the country.

Vastly developed before the automobile age, many would be considered to be more pedestrian friendly than the modern industrial park. Due to the construction of interstate highways, advances in the transportation industry, aging infrastructure and flight from the city, most century-old districts have declined or gentrified into other uses.

However, if you’re willing to explore, vibrant wholesale districts where adaptive reuse co-exists with historic industrial uses can be found in every region and city of decent size. Hard to replicate, they help contribute a unique sense of place and a different type of vibe and excitement to urban living. Here’s a brief look at five unique historic wholesale districts in various regions of the United States.

5. The Rail Yard District - Jacksonville, FL

It’s a district with a past that many Jaxsons are probably unfamiliar with. Historically, its name originates from 748-acre Reconstruction era residence of Colonel Lucius Augustus Hardee. During the 1890s, a group of railroad magnates led by Henry Flagler converted most of Hardee’s former property into a rail yard serving the Jacksonville Terminal called Honeymoon.

By the time the terminal became known as the largest south of Washington, DC, the Honeymoon yard had become surrounded by an impressive list of manufacturers, wholesalers, markets and food related businesses. Although the railroad terminals that made Jacksonville known as Florida’s “Gateway City” are gone, the district lives on due to it remaining Florida’s most important railroad junction.

Today, it’s home to the Jacksonville Farmers Market, Florida’s largest and oldest public market, attracting as many as 25,000 visitors a week. Still retaining much of its early 20th century grit and industrial flavor, it’s also home to Eco Relics, the largest architectural salvage company within a five-state area.