Saint John, New Brunswick

Old City Market building, Saint John, New Brunswick

The Old City Market

    First opened in 1876, the Old City Market has withstood the test of time - from The Great Fire of 1877 which devoured the city around it only a year after it opened, to the twentieth-century urban renewal that built a brand new city right outside the iron gates.
    A full city block in length, the Market runs downhill from the "head of the Market" on Charlotte Street, gently sloping to the Germain Street entrance, a full 20 feet below. At both entrances hang the same gates that have swung closed at the end of each business day since 1880. Crafted from heavy wrought-iron, their graceful design is a tribute to the skill and artistry of the local blacksmith who created them.

   Saint John City Market has been designated by the Government of Canada as a place of national historic significance. This place is part of the Family of National Historic Sites, one of more than 800 places across Canada which help define the important aspects of Canada's diverse but common heritage and identity.
    For more information on this historic site be sure to check out the official site at:http://www.sjcitymarket.ca/

To find out more about the Old City Market contact:
Deputy Market Clerk,
Saint John City Market
47 Charlotte Street
Saint John, New Brunswick
Canada E2l 2H8
(506) 658-2820
Fax: (506) 649-7966
Email: hayesm@nb.aibn.com
Official website: http://www.sjcitymarket.ca/

Monday - Friday 7:30 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday 7:30 am - 5:00 pm
Closed Sundays and Holidays

Old City Market building, Saint John, New Brunswick
The City Market - 125 years Young!
Opened 1876 in Saint John, N.B. Canada

    One of the ancient privileges incident to every authorized Market was the Piedpoudre Court. This court which became the "Pie Powder Court" in common terms was responsible for all commercial dealings in the Market. Presided over by the Market Clerk, it could levy fines, retain or expel merchants and set rules of behaviour within the Market area.
   City reports show that the Court was both vigilant and busy. There are lists of fines levied on short weights, bad meat and vegetables, and breaking of the stipulated rules of Market procedure.
    The so-called "Pie Powder Court" has fallen into disuse because its functions have been taken over by Governmental agencies i.e., Board of Health, Department of Agriculture, etc.
   The Market Clerk and his staff still preside over the daily operation of the Market and report through the Market Committee to the Saint John City Council.
   It might be of interest that the derivation of Piedpoudre is from the Norman French and referred to common peddlers and chapmen who travelled from market to market and because of their wanderings had "dusty feet."
    The Saint John Market to a great extent, exemplifies the generally relaxed life style of local citizens. The great Market Hall is conductive to conversations with the established merchants, the farmers and handicraft merchants. Recipes, plans, gossip and merits of products, are dispensed in equal amounts. The Market exudes an air of old time friendliness and gives the visitor a chance to shop on a personal basis and even to practice the long forgotten art of haggling.
    The market as a concept was a particular place for the sale or barter of farm produce and cottage crafts. Gradually as land units with a larger concentration of inhabitants evolved during the thirteenth century, market days became more frequent and their products more diverse.
    Cattle, wool, fish and horses are examples of special markets that were established and some of them still exist in almost their original format and exact site, this is particularly true in the British Isles.


    The gates of the Saint John City Market were commissioned to be built for the same utilarian purpose for which all gates are made, to bar entrances; in the case of the City Market; at night after the closing bell has rung.
   The workmen of Banfill and Aiken who fashioned the gates in 1880 were able to design structures that combined the practical with the aesthetic. Working with the inelegant and unyielding medium of malleable iron they formed gates that are masterpieces from the craft of blacksmithing. The composition of circles, arabesques and straight lines form a tracery that give an impression of lightness and airiness that belie the weight and strength of the completed structures.
   Because they are still being used for the purpose for which they were made, we are unable to show them in a better setting. We would suggest you view them and you will be impressed by the artistry and creativity of the craftsmen of 96 years ago.
   The first market in Saint John was called the Country Market and was held on King Street about in the area now the site of Brunswick Square. It was held in the open air and was subject to the vagaries of the weather.
   Eventually the city controlled 5 markets; a Fish Market and wharf on Water Street, a cluster of sheds on Market Street called the Country Market, Sydney Market that served Lower Cove and a Hay Market on King Street.
   During the early days in Saint John, King Square was used extensively as a site for livestock markets. As the City Fathers gradually improved the appearance of the Square, the markets were discontinued. The Hay Market was moved to the eastern outskirts of the city and named Wellington Market, the name, Wellington, never really took hold and Haymarket Square became firmly established.
    As the City of Saint John grew in size and influence, the condition and dispersal of these markets became, not only an embarrassment, but highly impractical.
   Pressure from the public forced Council to plan for a centralized market.
    It was on May 4, 1874, that Common Council by resolution ordered its Market Committee: to consider the advisability of the Corporation putting up a building on the vacant ground at the North East end of the Country Market lot.
    At this time Market Street would be almost in the centre of today's Market Building and the sheds containing stalls were on either side of the street.
    The Market Committee which was a Committee of Council asked at the meeting of May 15, 1874, that any further building of sheds or leasing of ground, be held in obeyance, until they had made their recommendations. This came on June 3, 1874, when they asked for authorization "to take such action as they may deem expedient for obtaining plans and specifications for the erection of a Country Market and report thereon. "
   They received the authority and immediately advertised for architectural designs.
    The Committee presented their report on December 16,1874: - "Your Committee to whom it was referred to have plans prepared with a view to their erection of a Market on the Country Market Lot, advertised for plans, offering two prizes architects who might desire to compete in making suggestions for a Market design.
   They received several plans which have been for some months on exhibition at the Mayor's Office. With reference to the prizes offered. Your Committee, having received a report from a sub-committee appointed to carefully inspect the plans, recommend that, the first place of $200 be awarded to Messrs McKean and Fairweather for their plan No. 2 and the second prize of $100 to D. E. Dunham.
   That in acknowledgement of the excellence of two of the other plans submitted your committee recommend that Mr. W.P. Clark and Mr. W.M. Smith receive a premium of $50 each.
    In the Royal Charter granted by George III in 1785, incorporating Saint John, New Brunswick, as a city, it is clearly stated the privileges andstrictures governing Markets.
    In the quaint language of the Charter it said: and We do further, for Us, our Heirs and Successors, will ordain and grant that the Mayor of the said city, for the time being, shall forever hereafter be Clerk of the market of Us, our Heirs and Successors within the city aforesaid, and the limits, liberties and precincts thereof: and that the Mayor the said city for the time being, by himself or his Deputy, may and shall have full power and authority to do and execute and shall and may do and execute, forever, within the limits, liberties and precincts of the said city, all and whatsoever to the office of Clerk of the Market, there doth, shall or may belong, without any hindrance or impediment of Us, our Heirs or Successors or any the officers of Us, our Heirs or Successors; and that no other Clerk of the market shall intermeddle there; .....
   Further on in the same section of the Charter, it defines the Mayor's right to grant licenses and the use of the seal of the Mayor's Office as distinct from the Corporation .... and also that the Mayor of the said city for the time being, shall have full power and authority to license and appoint by warrant under his hand and seal two or any greater number of Marshals of the said city, Bell Ringers and Cryers of the Court Session and Common Pleas, Porters of the great beam, balance and weights, common porter carriers, cartmen, waggoners, teamsters, draymen, ballastmen, lightermen, wherrymen, parkters, cullers, common cryers, scavengers and beadles, and to displace all or any of them and to put others in their rooms, and to add or diminish the number of them or any of them (except the Marshalls which shall not be less than two) when and as often as the Mayor, for the time being, shall be called the seal of the Mayoralty of Saint John, and shall serve and be used as well for the deputing, licensing or appointing of all such officers and ministers of the said city.
   A copy of the Mayor's seal is reproduced here. There were rates wet for the various licenses, positions and services which required this seal, the money accruing from the use of the seal belonged to the Mayor, this of course was before a salary was set for the office of Mayor.

Saint John Old City Market GatesSaint John Old City Market's catch of the day Saint John Old City Market sky light cafeSaint John Old City Market location mapSaint John Old City Market's freindly service
Saint John Old City Market back entranceSaint John Old City Market's well lit interiorSaint John Old City Market roof structure