History of the Victoria Public Market
There is no country in the world where farmers more richly deserve encouragement than on Vancouver Island … vote “aye” for a public Market. – Colonist editorial, January 5, 1887
As the number of settlers in Victoria grew, it became increasingly difficult to supply food to everyone who needed it. Farmers spent long hours pedaling their produce, which took them away from their farms. It became increasingly obvious that there was a need for a weekly public market, which was already in place in other areas.
In 1860, The Hudson Bay’s Company announced they would provide Victoria with land to create a public market, but this never came to fruition. The next year, private citizens took saw this entrepreneurial opportunity and formed the Victoria Public Market Company. The public protested this as profits would go to private speculators, but the building of the small 12-stall market proceeded anyways in July 1861 on the corner of Broad and Fort Street. Unfortunately, the company declared bankruptcy after only two months and the space was converted to a dance house. Partially attributing to this failure was the difficulty for farmers to bring goods into town on the terrible roads. The public still wanted a market, even though they hadn’t fully supported it at the time.
In 1880, the public voted in favour of a new market. A new site was purchased on the corner of Cormorant (Pandora) and Fisgard Streets with elaborate plans for the new 60-stall and store Victoria Public Market. This market was very well supported and the grand opening was a huge success. Again, the market struggled and in the first 9 years wasn’t able to find vendors for more than half their stalls. They began renting to anyone from hotels to display samples of rooms, the Salvation Army for band and singing practice, the fire department, the railway as a station, and even the public morgue. With few farmers participating, it was becoming far from a market. The market continued to struggle and was demolished in 1959. It was still very difficult for farmers to transport their produce to the market and there was very little public parking to make it accessible.
Finally, in the 1920’s chain supermarkets appeared, which introduced the modern era of supplying food to the citizens of Victoria.