Historic Market Square - Kingston


Yes I do have a life other than real estate. Kingston is my home and it's history fascinates me.

We just shot our second episode on Vintage Kingston on Station 14 here in Kingston, Ontario.This time we featured the Historic Market Square. http://www.station14.ca/video.html?id=434 As was to be expected we had to cut some of the spoken part and some of the photos so the following is the full transcript I wrote on the square.
Kingston Market is thought to be the oldest farmers market in Ontario. Originally plotted out by Lieutenant John Holland in 1783, there was an informal market running by 1788.As the Kingston population grew in the late 18th century, the market acted as the centre of the local economy and community. It was the Kingston Market Square that Lieutenant Governor Sir John Graves Simcoe chose as the location to proclaim the Constitutional Act which established Upper Canada as a separate jurisdiction on 8 July 1792.In 1801, as Kingston's population was around a thousand people ,the market was given official status. As we now had the British Garrison, naval base and dockyards there was of course a greater demand for products, and at that time there were no stores established. Whatever people had to buy sell or trade was to be found at the market, so it was the business and social hub of Kingston. Local farmers brought in crops and livestock for sale, wood for both fires and building was available, blacksmiths provided nails for building, horse shoes, plows , there were butchers, fishmongers and hunters with fresh game, wool for clothing, so basically all the necessities and even a few luxury items from England were made available.
By the middle of the Nineteenth Century the population had expanded to about six thousand people, and the market had expanded to meet this demand. New businesses now surrounded the square, including City Hall, hotels and merchants. The square itself was filled with wooden stalls of dubious construction, and was commonly referred to as the market shambles. As to be expected in a time of open fires and lanterns, there was the great fire of 1840, which destroyed all the stalls and surrounding buildings, the city hall and many of the waterfront structures. After this an effort was made to avoid a recurrence and it was decided that most of the downtown structures should be constructed of our local stone, so this was the beginning of our designation as the Limestone City and many of the buildings you see downtown were constructed in this period after the fire. Of course the most prevalent of the buildings connected with Market Square is of course City Hall, which was designed by George Brown and completed in 1844; it's design was of course reflective of Kingston's status as the capitol of Canada at the time. We will deal with the City Hall itself in a future episode, but when it was built it had the market wing, which stretched out to King street. This 36 foot high multi-storey stone wing house dried goods on the upper level and butchers and green grocers in the partially below ground lower level, thus keeping those products cool in the hot summer months. Unfortunately the market wing was not with us long as another fire occurred in 1865 levelling the structure. Of course by that point with the growth of Kingston many more shops had been established on Store street, now called Princess street, so a smaller version of the wing , was built in the market wings place, Apparently it still contained a few market stalls unto the beginning of the twentieth century, and the wing later served as the police station for a number of years. Of course the smaller wing allowed for more outdoor vendors, and slowly the area became known as the produce market. It still also fulfilled its social function and it was here that Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald declared the Confederation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.
As times changed the activity at the market square changed with it. The rise of car culture meant more people were shopping at the grocery stores, or from 1955 on the Kingston Shopping Centre, the market started to operate only on alternate days becoming a parking lot on the other days of the week. The market continued to survive however, relying on many local vendors and customers, and during the tercentenary in 1973 it was decided by the city to make an effort to revitalize the market. Besides food items, more people started selling flowers and local handicrafts as well 3 days a week and Sundays it became, for the most part an antique market. The most recent major change, which included a controversial name change disregarding the markets historic significance started in 2005 and was completed in 2008. While it still acts as a market square for much of the year a fountain was added and in the winter there is a public skating rink

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Bill Stevenson

Bill Stevenson

Sales Representative
CENTURY 21 Champ Realty Ltd., Brokerage*
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