Granville Island Public Market
Talk about a transformation. In the late 1970s, Granville Island began to change. From a declining 37 acre industrial wasteland in Vancouver’s False Creek, to one of the most successful urban redevelopments in North America.
If Granville Island is the king of Vancouver destinations, then the Public Market is the jewel in the Island’s crown. A fascinating assortment of colourful stalls, showcasing unique homemade products and the very finest in gastronomic delights. All fresh from the ocean, the oven or the field. Try closing your eyes right now and imagine the rich aromas permeating from the lavish displays. Shimmering seafood, warm baked goods, plump fruit.
Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. The peninsula was once an industrial manufacturing area, but today it is now a hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment. The area has received much acclaim in recent years for its buildings and shopping experience.
The city of Vancouver was once called Granville until it was renamed in 1886, but the former name was kept and given to Granville Street, which spanned the small inlet known as False Creek. False Creek in the late 19th century was more than twice the size it is today, and its tidal flats included a large permanent sandbar over which spanned the original, rickety, wooden Granville Street bridge. This sandbar, which would eventually become Granville Island, was first mapped by Captain George Henry Richards in the British Boundary Commission’s naval expedition in 1858-59, and the island today conforms roughly to the size and shape documented at that time. A British Admiralty Chart of 1893 shows the island in greater detail and conforming even more accurately to today’s Granville Island.
The first attempt to stabilize the sandbar by driving piles around the perimeter was an unofficial attempt to create some free real estate shortly after the creation of the original Granville Street bridge in 1889. The Federal government put a stop to the work as a menace to navigation, but the piles are still visible in a photo taken in 1891.
In 1915, with the port of Vancouver growing, the newly formed Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a reclamation project in False Creek for an industrial area. A 35 acres (14 ha) island, connected to the mainland by a combined road and rail bridge at its south end, was to be built. Almost 1 million cubic yards (760,000 m³) of fill was dredged from the surrounding waters of False Creek to create the island under the Granville Street Bridge. The total cost for the reclamation was $342,000. It was originally called Industrial Island, but Granville Island was the name that stuck, named after the bridge that ran directly overhead.
During the Great Depression, one of Vancouver’s several hobo jungles sprang up on the False Creek flats opposite Granville Island’s north shore. “Shackers” lived on the island, in town, or in floathouses, and survived by fishing and beachcombing and sold salmon, smelt, and wood door to door or at the public market on Main Street. They were basically self-sufficient and were left alone.
In 1949 city officials gave eviction notices to seven hundred people when a typhoid scare and a grisly murder prompted the city to remove the shantytown.
Granville Island entrance
As business declined, officials began entertaining a new reclamation plan. The idea was to fill in the remainder of the Creek to create more industrial land, remove the water access (on which many of the existing factories still depended), and turn Granville Island into a land-locked plot. The Creek was saved by the hefty $50-million price tag estimated to fulfill the reclamation plan. Just 6 acres (24,000 m2) were reclaimed from the Creek along the Island’s south channel. It was technically no longer an island but instead a peninsula.
The island was in serious decline as fire struck factory after factory. Rather than rebuild, owners either relocated or left the industry altogether. Trucks replaced barges and trains as the main means of transportation, and the Island’s cramped, inner-city location no longer looked attractive to industry. Slowly, the vacant lots began to outnumber the occupied ones.
In the 1970s, the site was redeveloped by the federal government, spearheaded by Canadian government minister Ron Basford. It transformed the site into a ‘people-friendly’ place with various uses, from parkland to housing to public exhibition space. Today, the site is still owned and managed by the government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation agency. The redevelopment originally cost the government $19 million and the site now generates an estimated $35 million per year in taxes.
Granville Island today
Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island provides amenities such as a large public market, an extensive marina, a boutique hotel, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (named in honour of the artist), Arts Umbrella, False Creek Community Centre, various performing arts theatres including Vancouver’s only professional improvisational theatre company Vancouver Theatresports League, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Carousel Theatre, fine arts galleries, and variety of shopping areas. There are two zones remaining from the Island’s industrial heyday: a machine shop and concrete plant.
Since its redevelopment in the 1970s, Granville Island has maintained a community of craft studios, including: a glassblowing studio, two co-op printmaking studios, a fine-art print studio, a luthier, a master saké maker, various jewellers, the B.C. Potter’s Guild Gallery, the Crafthouse Gallery, the Circle Craft shop, art galleries, boatbuilders, a wood co-op shop, woodworkers studios, etc. A daily farmers’ market has been ongoing since the early 1990s – this was the first contemporary farmers’ market in Vancouver.
Granville Island Brewing Co. is also the name of a beer company which originated on Granville Island in 1984, but whose main base of operations was moved to Kelowna, British Columbia some time later. In 2009 it was purchased by Molson’s Brewery and continues to brew small batches of its varieties at the Granville Island brewing original site, and offers beer-tasting and tours of their brewing facilities.
Apples and calabash “geese”, Granville Island Public Market, 2011.
The Granville Island Public Market features a farmers’ market, day vendors, and artists offering local Vancouver goods. There are fifty permanent retailers and over one-hundred day vendors in stalls throughout the market selling a variety of artisan cottage-industry foods and handmade crafts on a rotating schedule.
My favorite vendor in this place: The Stock Market
Soups, Stocks and Sauces… handmade in our Granville Island kitchen every day.
A lot of time is spent chopping, peeling, simmering, stirring and tasting the freshest ingredients to create an amazing collection of products. We’re the “go to” place for busy people who love great food but can’t spend the entire day in the kitchen. We provide the building blocks to inspire your kitchen creations – for easy everyday and elegant special occasions.
Eat our famous soups – a healthy, hearty comfort food, perfect for all seasons. Warm and comforting in winter, cool and refreshing in summer.
Our stocks are used by renowned chef’s in their kitchens at home and at work. The base of any great dish is great stock.Stocks:
Veal Brown Stock
Gluten Free Turkey Gravy
Apricot & Dijon Dipping Sauce
Chinese Chili & Black Bean Sauce
Malaysian Peanut Sauce
Mango Peanut Stir Fry Sauce
Spicy Ginger Dipping Sauce
Spicy Mango Lime Coconut Sauce
Spicy Peanut Harissa Sauce
Spicy Thai Coconut Sauce
Lemon Parsley Pesto
Red Pepper Pesto
Asiago Honey Chipotle Dip
Black Peppercorn, Lime & Honey Dip
Orange Mint & Roasted Cumin Dip
Tuscan Bean Dip
Our awesome collection of sauces includes salad dressings, gourmet butters, dips, pasta sauces, salsas, hollandaise & béarnaise sauce, fish and meat sauces, BBQ sauces, fruit sauces, pestos, and chutneys, to name a few.
Walking Granville Island today, you can see the traces of its origins. Around some of the trees you can see the sandy soil deposited for millennia by the streams draining into False Creek. Railway track can still be seen amongst the cobblestone streets and the industrial heritage of the Island is stamped on every building.
It was an amazig visit to make and I will need more time the next time to taste more vendors!