Unknown Victoria

Victoria: The Unknown City is a guidebook to an eccentric town on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This is the author's blog. Look here for Victoria lore, updates and additions to the book, and hate mail.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Market Forces

The vanished Victoria Public Market was a narrow brick building extending all the way from Cormorant Street (now Pandora; its entrance is shown in the photo at left) to Fisgard, behind the original city hall. Built in 1914, its stalls were filled with poultry, eggs, flowers and vegetables, mainly sold by immigrants who raised the goods in their back yards. By 1959, however, most Victorians were shopping in supermarkets – mainly for space-age frozen food – and the city decided to tear the old building down and create a parking lot.

The market didn’t go without a fight. An Italian-born flower vendor named Attilio Randy (right), who’d had a stall in the market since the day it opened, launched a protest. He gathered 1,600 names on a petition and held a sit-down strike, refusing to move from the building as bulldozers waited outside. Only a public market could protect small farmers and locally grown food, he told reporters. “Small farmers are part of the civil defence,” he said, arguing the need for food security on Vancouver Island. “Today, many small people have deserted their land because of inability to dispose of their produce, yet millions of dollars in vegetables and fruit are imported every year.” But after four days, tired and beaten, the 72-year-old Randy moved on, and the building was demolished. He sold his flowers from a street stand for a few years, and died in 1973. A few bricks from the old market were incorporated into the Centennial Square fountain that’s on the site today.

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