Peterborough's iconic Market Hall has a rich history dating all the way back to its origin as a smaller market in 1851 on Water Street.
In 1889, council approved plans for the construction of a new Market Hall—a large two storey building with a four faced clock tower that opened in 1890 at the corner of George & Charlotte. Below are some key historical moments and pictures/postcards provided by renowned local historian Elwood Jones.
1. The first market hall is visible in the distant right. This is the only known photo of the 1851 Market Hall which famously housed E. C. Hill’s Music Hall on the second floor.
2. The 1875 Bird’s Eye View map of Peterborough has a clear representation of the first Market Hall, complete with verandah. It also provides useful context for the downtown area.
3. This 1882 view of Peterborough was featured on the cover of Peterborough The Electric City. Neither market hall is visible, but notice the Bradburn Opera Hall in the centre and the grand civic buildings from St. Paul’s Church, Court House, St. John’s and the Peter Hamilton factory with black smoke contrasting to the countryside feel.
4. This coloured perspective of the Bradburn Opera House, built in 1875, captures the elegance of a building that housed stores, town government offices and the opera hall. From the Bradburn fonds.
5. This view of the Snowden House shows the Bradburn Opera House in the distance, but a blank where the new Market Hall would have been; the view dates, therefore, between 1875 and 1889.
6. The laying of the cornerstone was a civic holiday for school children. Mayor James Stevenson and architect John Belcher are by the tripod where the stone is about to be laid for the new Market Hall circa 1889. The wall of the Bradburn Opera Building abutted the Market Hall site.
7. This grand picture, circa 1900, shows the joy of winter and a large tree near the corner of George and Charlotte. However, the lineup of three classic buildings sets the corner apart: the Bradburn Opera, the Market Hall, and the Customs Building.
8. The Market Square on market day, circa 1900, was a busy place. Notice the Green Terrace, and to the right, the Otonabee river and a spit of land. This corner was incredibly close to the river.
9. The Market Hall shares the spotlight with the streetcar in this postcard view, c. 1905. Notice the cupola is gone from the Bradburn Opera, and the vacant lands south of the Customs House adorned with Stocker billboards. The Barrie Building (now the Peterborough Inn) was built in 1911-1913, replacing the billboards.
(TVA Postcard Collection, Ken Brown.)
10. This circa 1920 postcard of George Street shows the area around the Market Hall tower, and the passing zone for the street car at the important Charlotte Street intersection.
11. The Market Hall viewed from the Customs House gardens gives a good idea of the size of the building which had a rear wing towards the market square. This is one of my favourite Peterborough postcards, featured in Postcards from Peterborough and the Kawarthas (TVA, 2016).
12. The Market Hall clock was undergoing repair in this 1951 photo, and note the well-crafted woodwork details and two workmen above the clock, which allows us to see the scale.
13. The bus was turning on to Charlotte Street in this 1983 photo of the Market Hall, now next to Peterborough Square. The Italianate details of John Belcher’s elegant masterpiece are highlights of the windows and doors.
14. This 1974 photo shows the early stage of the demolition of the buildings that had long defined the market square: the Bradburn Building, the Neill Shoe Store, and the Bradburn Opera House.
15. This fairly modern picture captures the streetscape along the east side of George Street. Nearly all the buildings date from the 1860s to the 1880s, were built of brick, and generally three storeys in height. Peterborough Square was built to complement this historic and unique streetscape. In contrast to earlier plans, and as suggested by the Peterborough Historical Society, the Square opened on to George Street was built of brick and respected the prevailing height.
16. The Market Hall adds interest and architectural variety to this view of George Street looking north from the Empress Gardens (the former Empress Hotel.)
17. Charlotte Street looking towards the Market Hall. From all directions, the tower points the direction to the city centre.
18. The Market Hall tower is visible over the main part of the Peterborough Square when viewed from Water and Simcoe.
19. Artists and photographers have tackled the Market Hall, and this contemporary painting by D. C. Green is perhaps the most picturesque. From 1939 to 1974, the local business community favoured demolishing the Market Hall and replacing it with modern steel and glass emporium. Since then, it has come to be recognized as distinctive and also representative of the ambitions of the late Victorians and the people of today. Today, the Market Hall is a credit to Peterborough and an object of pride. In view of the roller coaster history of neglect and indifference, it is now recognized as a unique market hall, unmatched in design or style anywhere in the province. John Belcher was a master architect and designer.