The city of Hamilton is full of heritage. Many of the buildings we enter everyday (for school, work, or recreational activities) has had some kind of heritage designation. Take for example, the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. The Hamilton Farmers’ Market is one of the most popular places to mosey around throughout the week, especially during early Saturday mornings to purchase some great local produce, and coffee! The Hamilton Farmers’ Market has been a place where Hamiltonians have met since the early 1800’s – 1837 to be exact. It has always been located on York Boulevard, right in the heart of Hamilton’s downtown core. It has gone through many facelifts and renovations, and today it stands out as a sleek, modern building, attached to the Hamilton Public Library, Jackson Square, and the First Ontario Centre. Around 60+ vendors can be found inside the market, most of them being there since its conception. Some of these venders are brand-new local businesses, while others are rotating wineries and bakeries with home bases found somewhere in and around the Niagara Escarpment. While its popularity has waned during its last round of renovations, it has continued to be a Hamilton heritage hotspot.
Throughout the main level of the market, a timeline of pictures and events can be found. The land that the market is located on was bought in 1837 for the purposes of bringing the community together through the sale of local vegetables, meats, and bakery goods. It wasn’t until 1895 that the market became a covered building, open and accessed all year round. Unfortunately during the early 1900s, a major fire broke out and destroyed many of the stalls. This was not the end of the market as Hamiltonians are very resilient. The vendors created new stalls and remained opened during the rebuild. By 1980 the market had become a fully enclosed, multi-floor building, taking up the space of a whole city block. In 2011, a remodel was needed due its growing popularity in the city. Now each vendor has movable stall walls, electricity, and running water. Moreover, today the market also has rooms for community meetings, teachings, and baking sessions. One of the most striking additions from the 2011 revamp was the restoration of the iconic Birk’s clock. The clock was taken from the old Birk’s store that used to be a next-door neighbor to the market during the 1800s. Today, this clock can be found hanging right in the center of the market. During the late 1800s/early 1900s, it was a tradition for locals to meet under the city hall clock for a coffee and stroll through the market during. Today, instead of using the city hall clock as a meeting place (since it is not connected to the market anymore), many families and friends use the beloved Birk clock as a meeting place.
The market has always been an accessible site for community members. Whether you need the help of a wheel chair or cane to move around, the Farmers’ Market has been created as an easily accessible building. With ramps, elevators, and volunteer services available, many disabled and elderly Hamiltonians can get their shopping done. Additionally, these ramps and elevators are not located in out-of-the-way locations. The ramps lead you straight down into the front of the market, and the elevator is found just off from the center. No discrimination or prejudices can be seen from market goers, as the market is a place for everyone to enjoy. Moreover, information about meetings and baking sessions can not only be found on their website and social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), but can also be found in the form of flyers and posters at the market and Jackson Square (for those who do not have access to the internet). It is a community area open and accepting for all members of society – homeless, disabled, rich or poor. The accessibility and openness of the market is one of the main reasons why it is such a popular heritage landmark in Hamilton.
The Hamilton Farmers’ Market, hands down, plays an integral role within in the Hamilton community. It is not uncommon to find people meeting underneath the iconic Birk’s clock, or from outside the market doors on York Blvd, or even inside the entrance from Jackson Square. This market plays an important part of Hamilton’s heritage, as it has been able to bring the community together for over 100 years. Whether you are vegan, ultra vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, omnivore, gluten-free/dairy-free, or an extreme cheese lover, or in the mood for Indian, British, Portuguese, or Chinese, the market can offer and accommodate you in whatever way you need it to.