The Midland, Michigan Farmers Market by Alden B. Dow

The first discussion about the design of a structure to cover farmers selling their produce in the open parking lot at the foot of Ashman Street took place in March 1973.  Those meeting notes describe a simple roof structure, 160 feet long by 30 feet wide, to be supported by telephone poles donated by the local utility company.  After meetings between Alden B. Dow, city administrators, the Chamber of Commerce, and a committee of farmers, a circular design for the new Farmers Market was devised, making it possible to accommodate more vendors in the same amount of space as the initial straight-line design.

Working drawings for the circular structure with a diameter of 130 feet were completed by June 6, 1973.  Helger Construction Company of Midland was awarded the construction contract for its estimated cost of $23,540 and its anticipated completion by the end of August.  Funding was provided by the city, the Chamber of Commerce, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, and private donations.  


As built, the market contained 40 vendor stalls along the outer perimeter and 20 stalls on the inside, almost double the capacity of the initial design.  A pitched roof was covered in brown asbestos shingles and supported by 19 new posts; the donated telephone poles were old and deemed unsuitable by the city’s Building Department.  Tall trees dotted the interior of the circle.  The shingle roof was replaced with the familiar green metal roof during renovations in 1994-95.

Although not designed by Mr. Dow, an early undated snapshot shows that a rather basic mural dominated by a large circle was painted on a wall of the building at one time.  However, Mr. Dow did have some original ideas of his own in mind for a possible mural.  His mural sketches depict in an abstract fashion an aerial view of farm fields, the nearby Tittabawassee River and the surrounding area.  None were ever used for the Farmers Market.  Instead, a wall in the Alden B. Dow Archives features one of these striking designs and inspires many positive comments by visitors to the Home and Studio.

Did you know?  Appointments are welcome to view or study any of the Archives materials featured in this post and can be arranged by contacting us at

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