A farmers’ market that doesn’t show her age

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If you have visited the City Market Downtown, you have probably noticed it is pretty cool, hip and with it. You’d also probably never guess that this farmers’ market is 107 years old.

While the farmers’ market wasn’t always known as the City Market, it has always been a fixture in downtown Edmonton. In 1903, the Rice Street Market was first established by what was then the Town of Edmonton’s Council. Located at Market Square, now the site of the Stanley A. Milner Library, the Market quickly established itself as a regular destination every Saturday for Edmontonians. It was a central location from which local and regional farmers could sell their produce and other farm products, and where Edmontonians could shop, socialize and be entertained.

The Market’s downtown location was instrumental in helping to define and attract people to Edmonton’s growing civic centre. Several years later, the Market was given the name it still holds today, the City Market.

From day one, it’s been vendors and customers that have helped the City Market survive through countless generations and major changes to Edmonton’s downtown core. In the mid 1960s, the City Market had to relocate to 97th to make way for the construction of the city library. In 2004, the City Market moved  to outdoors to 104th Street. In Fall 2011, the City Market became year round by moving indoors inside City Hall in the winter months, and back out on 104th Street in the spring.

When we are outdoors at our 104th Street location, the Market is in the heart of Edmonton’s coolest street. Funky loft conversions and large-scale apartments have sprung up all around 104th Street, helping in the revitalization of the downtown core.  In the 1990’s, 104th Street was redeveloped to have wider sidewalks and street improvements to make it pedestrian and City Market friendly.

When indoors in the winter months, the City Market Downtown calls one of Edmonton’s most distinctive architectural landmarks home – City Hall. The Market comes to life indoors underneath the pyramids in the atrium at City Hall, keeping vendors and customers toasty warm in a sunny atmosphere, and allowing the Market to operate year round.

Without a doubt, the City Market Downtown has a rich history that still influences the Market today. There is something about shopping our Market takes you back to a slower, simpler time.

It will be interesting to see what the next chapter holds.

[Historical photo source: Kathryn Merrett, History of the Edmonton City Market 1900-2000, Univ. of Calgary Press, 2001.]

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