Rise and Fall of the Grandview Market Hall

In the first decade of the 20th century, Vancouver was a tiny outpost of civilization; its 20,000 people linked to the rest of the continent by railroads and steamships. That being said, the city was somehow able to track and follow certain market trends. And Grandview became involved.

According to the vital new work by Frank Trentmann called “The Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from  the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First“, the growth of consumerism and department stores across the world at the end of the 19th century, led to an increase in disorderly and disreputable street hawkers and “cities turned to market halls to bring them under central control.”   Inside these new areas, “spitting, swearing, and shouting were forbidden.”(1)

I have not noticed a call in Vancouver at that time complaining about problems with street hawkers, however that did not stop notary William Astley building the East Side Public Market at 1502 Venables on the corner with Woodland. The hall was built on a 66 x 126 foot lot and was to “serve the same purpose as the recently opened market that has been such a success in the west end.” It cost $45,000 including land (at a time when a store on the Drive could be erected for less than half that) and included 40 separate stalls and offices on the ground floor. The upper floor would be for public entertainments. Mr Wentzy, the manager, had opened previous markets in Seattle, his motto being: “High class merchandise and low prices, courteous treatment and honest weights.” There was a fireproof glass awning along Venables and the building was illuminated by 400 electric lights.(2)

The market opened in May 1911. In 1912, the City Directory listed a cigar store, a grocery, a bakers, a meat store, and Astley’s office as occupying the hall. However, by 1914 the market was vacant and sat unused for several years. Astley moved his real estate offices along the street to 1516 Venables.(3)

In Europe and elsewhere, the craze for market halls had come to an equally rapid halt. AsTrentmann writes:

By 1911, observers began to notice their ‘growing insignificance’ for ordinary people … It could be cheaper to buy from a street dealer who did not carry the extra expense of renting a stall.” (4)

Without more research it would be hard to say if Grandview’s Market Hall failed for the same reasons as those in London and Manchester and Buenos Aires. But the timing of the rise and fall seems eerily coincident.

 

Notes:

  1. Trentmann, Frank 2016, “Empire of Things” (Allen Lane, London), p.207
  2. Vancouver World, 24 Jan 1911; Western Call 19 May 1911, p.1
  3. Vancouver City Directories, 1911-1914
  4. Trentmann 2016, p.207-208