City Market – Westminster Avenue

The City Market was an ambitious investment, that proved to be a bit too out of the way to succeed. Built on Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street) it was located on the far side of the bridge that crossed the False Creek Flats, so was effectively ‘out of town’. It was fabulously ornate and state-of-the-art , with a cast iron façade and a lot of glazing; seen here in 1910.

Opened in 1908, the market operations replaced an earlier city building that was re-purposed as City Hall. This building was an unusually decorative design by W T Whiteway, who supervised the site preparations in 1907, reporting to the Council Market and Industries Committee that “the market wharf had been completed by the B. C. Contract Co. in a very satisfactory manner. He had seen no traces of toredoes when examining it. He had examined other wharves near there and found that toredoes did not seem to in that part of False creek. It was decided to charge the cost of the roadway approaching the market to the board of works.” Bayfield and Williams successfully bid to build the market at a cost of $25,233. (Toredoes – shipworms – are the marine creatures – actually a type of saltwater clam- that live on wood, and tunnel into underwater piers and pilings causing damage and destruction to submarine timber structures).

The market opened in August 1908, and the Daily World reported the first day of operations. In passing it referenced what must have been the city’s first green roof, and a rather innovative way of attracting customers. “When the door of the new building with the imitation moss – covered roof, at the southern end of Westminster avenue bridge, were thrown open this morning there were many women present, for it had gone forth that the woman wan made the first purchase at the opening of the market would have, the honor of declaring the market open and also receive, as a premium, a leg of mutton. Besides the women who wished the honor and the mutton there were several hundred spectators, mostly of the male persuasion, who cheered the fair contestants. “All ready,” shouted the clerk. “All ready,” repeated the caretaker, and the echoes had not been caught up from the back walls before the rush was on“. The newspaper carried several columns of details of the competition for the mutton, won by Mrs. Allen of Columbia Avenue “A pyramid of boxes of plums foil over to the stairway and the crushed fruit mude the ascent more perilous. One lady fell and the othes rushed unchecked over her prostrate body, knowing that the plum would make a cushion to save her from injury, even if they did stain her frock“.

Despite attracting 3,000 customers on the first day, the market was soon a failure, with few residents having any other reason to travel so far out of the city in that direction. It closed in the early 1920s, and was leased to a variety of industries, including a wire works, poultry dealer and a fish ball manufacturer. In 1925 it burned to the ground; all the firefighters could do was save the lives of some of the chickens.

The site was reused by a variety of industrial companies, including Excelsior Paper Stock and Spicer’s Asbestos Ltd in the 1930s. Today it’s a surface parking lot owned by the City of Vancouver, awaiting a future development as part of South East False Creek.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-89

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Posted November 19, 2018 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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