New Quebec City market builds on remnants of the past

Quebec City's revamped farmer's market will have a satellite location in Old Quebec, on the same plot of land where 19th-century merchants would gather to sell their produce.

Site of 19th-century Finlay Market will feature stands selling fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods

Quebec City's new farmer's market will have a satellite location in its historical downtown, on the same plot of land that housed the Finlay Market two centuries ago (pictured here in 1829). (City of Quebec/Library and Archives Canada)

A new market planned for the wharf in Quebec City's Old Port will allow cruise-ship passengers to disembark straight into the steps of 19th century merchants. 

The market will serve as a satellite for Quebec City's new farmer's market, for which city officials unveiled new details this week. 

The $20-million project will be built in a residential sector of the city, around six kilometres from its current location in the tourist neighbourhood of Old Quebec.

The downtown market will be set up from May to October in Old Quebec, near the very spot where tradesmen gathered in the early years of New France.

Finlay market, pictured here around 1870, was named after wealthy Scottish businessman William Finlay, who donated £1,000 to refurbish the area. (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)
That location, known as Place Royale, was the site of the city's oldest market, where tables and stalls were set up as early as the 1620s, according to Quebec City historian Jean Provencher. 

Around 1817, the city pushed the butchers and fishmongers down towards the St. Lawrence River into what became known as Finlay Market, now known as the Place de Paris.

That's where the new satellite market will be located. 

Building new around the old

While 19th century peasants could stock up on fish and meat at Finlay Market, the new market will sell fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods.

Place de Paris, pictured here in 1929, lost its former glory and became a parking lot for much of the 20th century, until the city started refurbishing it in 1987. (Photo taken by Thaddée Lebel, May 20 1929/Quebec City Archives)
In the residential neighbourhood of Limoilou, the larger "Grand Marché" will have 20 permanents stands and around 100 seasonal stalls, offering all the basics along with specialized products like chocolate, a brewery, a café and a sugar shack.

Architect Pierre Thibault said the structure will integrate an existing building on the grounds of Expo-Cité, a commercial lot used for exhibitions, beside the city's new arena.

"The new structure is in wood, the old one is brick and metal," he said. "We tried to create a good combination."

Thibault said the new market will have lots of natural light and vegetation to create a warm atmosphere even in the dead of winter.
The new market will be located in the Limoilou neighbourhood and will be built over the existing "Pavillon du Commerce" on the grounds of Expo-Cité. (City of Quebec)

Controversy over move

The change in location has drawn criticism from residents and business owners in the city's Old Port since the project was first announced.

Line Binet sells vegetables from her farm at the "Marché du Vieux-Port."

Even with its modern design, she doubts her customers will make the 45-minute walk to find her in Limoilou.

The first floor of the new farmer's market will house more than 120 stalls, while the second floor will be used for creative workshops. (City of Quebec)
"I've been selling here for 30 years, I've established a clientele. Eighty per cent of them tell me they won't go to the other market," she said.

Other business owners, like Francine Jobidon, are more optimistic.

"It's very pretty. It's encouraging for us to go over there, but we hope we'll have a stall at the satellite market."

The city says it expects construction to be done by late 2018, and says both markets should open by spring of 2019 at the latest.

With files from Radio-Canada