Essex Street was laid out by James Delancey just before the American Revolution as the east side of a "Delancey Square" intended for a genteel ownership; Delancey returned to England as a Loyalist in 1775, and the square was developed as building lots.
Long a part of the Lower East Side Jewish enclave, many Jewish-owned stores still operate on the street, including a pickle shop and many Judaica shops. It is also home to the Essex Street Market.
The Essex Street Market, constructed in the 1940s, is an indoor retail market that was one of a number of such facilities built in the 1930s under the administration of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at 120 Essex Street, at Delancey Street.
In September 2013 it was announced that the market would be integrated into Essex Crossing, a $1.1 billion development which began construction in 2015, and which will feature 1,000 low-, moderate- and middle-income apartments, a movie theater, a bowling alley and cultural space. It is expected to be completed in 2024. The old market was to close on May 5, 2019, and the new location was to open eight days later.
Beginning in October 2017 for four months, the market was scheduled to be one of several sites for an art installation called "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors", by well-known artist Ai Weiwei.