A shaky start for Parkdale Market, 90 years ago

A view of the Parkdale Market in the late 1940s or early 1950s, judging by the advertisement for the Nash car in the background. The view is to the north along Parkdale Avenue towards Tunney’s Pasture. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of the Market’s management, City of Ottawa.

This summer the Parkdale Market became a nonagenarian; 90 years old and as lively as ever, continuing to serve the residents of the inner west end of the city with fresh fruits, vegetables and all manner of flowers and plants.

The “West End Market” had a rather inauspicious beginning. It was scheduled to open for the first time on Thursday July 10, 1924. Many local residents showed up early in anticipation but there was not a single vendor on the site. The confusion was quickly remedied and the vendors sorted themselves out. Two days later they set up their stands, and they’ve been there ever since.

The creation of the Market happened in response to the growth of the population of the west end of Ottawa in the first decades of the 20th century. The construction of the Ottawa Electric Railway greatly facilitated the growth of new subdivisions, and allowed people to live in Britannia, Woodroffe, Westboro and Hintonburg; healthy, outlying areas which allowed a commute to jobs in the centre of the city. Produce vendors and consumers both saw the advantages of a market in the west end.

The site of the market, on the west side of Parkdale south of Armstrong Street, was previously, for a few years following 1910, the location of Gow and Bayliss Lumber Dealers, and The Greater Ottawa Sash, Door and Lumber Company but the lot was vacant by the end of the war in 1918.

The Market’s future, however, was not secure. The site was privately owned by Patrick Labelle, and as late as the mid-1940s, other sites were actually being considered for the Market, including one on Bayview Road. The Parkdale Avenue site won out in the end because of its size, proximity to bus and streetcar lines, and its 20-year history with local residents. It was in 1946 that the City of Ottawa finally secured the future of the Parkdale Market by passing a resolution to expropriate the site. The by-law authorizing the expropriation declared that the land would be used “for park or for recreational purposes or for other such purposes.” According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen in 1964 on the 60th anniversary of the market, it was Paul Tardif, a long-time municipal politician, who saw the potential of the present site for both a playground and a market. It was Tardif who led the initiative to purchase the property.

Some changes were made to the stalls in the 1970s, but it was not until 2011 that more substantial improvements were made. New covered stands were added along both Parkdale Avenue and Armstrong Street, and most importantly, the field house in the adjoining park was outfitted with refrigeration so that products such milk, eggs and cheese could be sold. The nearby park also got a major upgrade, which turned the whole site into a focal point for the community. Since then, the area has been the location of many special events and festivals. Vendors and customers alike have lauded the recent changes.

The new, revised and improved Parkdale Market is ready to welcome visitors and customers and neighbours into its second century and beyond.

Special thanks to Linda Hoad of the Hintonburg Community Association and to Philip Powell of the City of Ottawa for the information in this month’s column.

Bob Grainger is a retired federal public servant with an avid interest in local history. KT readers may already know him through his book, Early days in Westboro Beach – Images and Reflections. We’d love to hear your memories of the Parkdale Market. Send your email to stories@kitchissippi.com.

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