Modernizers and Traditionalists in Postwar Hamilton, Ontario: The Fate of a Farmers' Market, 1945-1965

By Robinson, Danielle | Urban History Review, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Modernizers and Traditionalists in Postwar Hamilton, Ontario: The Fate of a Farmers' Market, 1945-1965


Robinson, Danielle, Urban History Review


Between 1945 and 1965, the Hamilton Farmers' Market was hailed as both an irreplaceable cultural and historical gem, and condemned as an antiquated institution not worth the land it occupied. The market debates occurred in the midst of post--World War II suburban sprawl, fuelled and facilitated by the automobile. This change in the postwar landscape accommodated the rise of powerful modernist ideology as well as a traditionalist response. Debates over the market's fate touched on reducing, relocating, or eliminating the market completely. The chosen solution--constructing a parking ramp on the market site, and housing the market on the ground level of the structure--was implemented by October 1960. This was a victory for the city's modernizers, and fore-shadowed the more extensive urban renewal efforts that dominated regional politics in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Entre les annees 1945 et 1965, le Marche des fermiers de Hamilton est a la fois cite comme un joyau historique et culturel irremplacable ou condamne comme une institution demodee et sans valeur. Le debat au sujet du marche prend place a l'epoque de l'expansion des banlieues apres la Deuxieme Guerre mondiale, alimentee et facilitee par l'automobile. Ce changement dans le paysage d'apres-guerre contribue a l'essor d'une puissante ideologie moderniste, provoquant aussi une replique traditionaliste. Le debat sur le sort du marche envisage la reduction, la relocalisation et meme l'elimination complete du marche. On s'entend enfin sur une solution et la construction d'une rampe de stationnement sur le site et l'installation du marche au premier niveau de la structure sont mises en chantier en octobre 1960. Cette victoire pour le camp des modernistes prefigure des projets de renovation urbaine de grande envergure qui domineront la scene politique regionale a la fin des annees soixante et au debut des annees soixante-dix.

Between 1945 and 1965, the Hamilton Farmers' Market was hailed as both an irreplaceable cultural and historical gem, and condemned as an antiquated institution not worth the land it occupied. During this period, debates over the market's strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately its existence, polarized Hamiltonians between two urban ideologies. The market debates occurred in the midst of post-World War II suburban sprawl, fuelled and facilitated by the automobile, which quickly established numerous residential and commercial regions outside central Hamilton. This change in the postwar landscape accommodated the rise of a powerful modernist ideology that would drive the subsequent urban renewal movement in the city while also cultivating a traditionalist response. (1) As suburban growth exceeded that within the city, some metropolitan leaders struggled to protect and promote the urban core. To modernizers focused on the future, the market was incompatible with their vision of city development. For traditionalists, however, it was an indispensable civic landmark in the city centre. These debates over the Hamilton Farmers' Market touched on some of the most contentious urban development issues of the era while exposing a fierce ideological battle between equally passionate, but not equally powerful, rival visions.

In 1945, the market was already over 100 years in the making. Created in 1837 on land donated by wealthy Hamiltonian Andrew Miller specifically for the establishment of a market, the lot was located at the intersection of York and James Streets in the heart of the flourishing city (fig. 1). (2) Throughout its history the market remained primarily open-air, as none of the three halls constructed in 1849, the 1860s, and 1885 survived. (3) Stallholders were mostly local farmers, who paid weekly rental fees to the city authorities, who retained ownership and carried out managerial duties. Stationary stalls did not exist, but parking sheds were eventually erected to accommodate the trucks that parked directly on the site during the three days a week the market was open (fig. …

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