On June 10, 1886, a crowd of two to three hundred people gathered on Hamilton’s Market Square to witness a cornerstone laying ceremony. The building to be erected was solely for the use of market dealers, primarily butchers.
The building had already been partially constructed and the crowd awaited the arrival of the local politicians at the speakers’ platform :
“Several aldermen were inside the walls and stood together in full view of the crowd, carefully inspecting the timbers overhead, and looking wise.”
The ceremony was scheduled to commence at 3 p.m., but, twenty minutes later, the mayor still had not arrived. As a drizzling rain was falling, the crowd began to grow impatient.
Finally, a straggling procession of civic dignitaries made their appearance, headed by City Messenger Smith carrying a silver trowel in a Moroccan case. Alderman Kenrick, chairman of the Markets, Fire and Police Committee, hurried stepped forward to put in place the box containing the documents and relics which were to be sealed within the cornerstone.
After the mortar was spread, Mayor McKay stepped forward to deliver the following address:
“A Newmarket building has for a long time been a great necessity, and this necessity is about to be met. The building will, I believe, be unexcelled in the Dominion as a place to be used exclusively for market purposes. There are other buildings used for market purpose which have cost more money than this one, but they are not used exclusively for market purposes.
“In the past, we have felt like keeping visitors away from our old market sheds; we were ashamed of them; but soon we will be able to take pride in showing strangers the place where our citizens do their marketing. Hamilton is progressing steadily and surely – not, perhaps, at as rapid a rate as some other cities; but when Hamilton takes a step forward, she never recedes from that position; she will never take an inferior position to the one she now occupies.
“This new building is a substantial proof of our progress and prosperity.
“Today is a particularly fitting day for the ceremony that I am about to perform. The first piece of ground used for market purposes in Hamilton was deeded to the city by the late Andrew Miller, and this is the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the deed.
“The land deeded was a small space between Market and MacNab streets. After half a century, we vare about to take another step forward. I hope that this building, which has been well begun, will be successfully completed and will long stand a an ornament to the city and a convenience to our citizens.”
After Mayor McKay spread the mortar, the cornerstone was lowered and fixed into position. The mayor declared the cornerstone well and truly laid.
The ceremony then continued with a speech by Alderman Carruthers, who said :
“The old building has long been a disgrace to a city of the pretentions of Hamilton. The new one will be well-adapted for the purposes of public market, and will also be an ornament to the city. It is time for the old city hall to disappear also. It is little better as a city hall than the old market sheds are as market sheds. I hope, as I shall succeed the present mayor , to lay the cornerstone of a new city hall.”
Alderman Moore also addressed the crowd, and stated his full agreement with the previous speaker that a new city hall was badly need in Hamilton:
“We ought to have building that will adequately represent the city’s industry, prosperity and progress. I may add, also, that I would be pleased to have the honour of laying the cornerstone of a new city hall when the time comes for the erection of such a building.”
The speeches by Aldermen Carruthers and Moore touching on their aspirations for the mayor’s job provoked Alderman Tom Brick to turn his remarks into a pure political stump speech:
“There’s soon to be a political contest coming on in this city, and both political parties will try to pull the working man. But I would have the workingmen know that neither the Conservative nor the Reform party have done anything for them in this country. They’re both alike. Little Mowat down at Toronto is tarred with the same stick as John A. Both the governments are the same, both robbers.
“Aldermen Carruthers and Moore said they aspired to be mayor of this town. Well, both these gentlemen will have to get broader views before they can get there. They will have to say that the workingman is as good as a millionaire. That’s the class of men that we shouldn’t want to keep in the ditch but should try to elevate.”
Alderman Brick kept on the same vein for a few minutes longer. When his speech was concluded, he had failed to say a word about the new market building.
By the middle of December, 1886, the new market building was nearly complete and ready for occupancy. The final touches consisted mainly of each lessee adapting his stall for his own particular needs.
On December 13, 1886, a Reporter for the Hamilton Spectator was given a tour of inspection through the new market building, calling it “a credit to the city and to Mr. Edwards, the architect.”
The interior of the building presented a fine, uniform appearance. The fronts of each stall were constructed with open wood work at the top, with strong wire guards which could be raised or lowered at will, and locked to the counter when the stalls were closed.
In front of each stall, strong swinging counters were provided. Each stall holder was permitted to put their names on their stalls, but there had to be uniformity of colors and styles of lettering.
The beauty of the building’s design was augmented by stained glass windows above the doors at each end and over the side entrance.
The new market building was not completely satisfactory to the stall holders. Because the floor was concrete and no drains provided, the butchers, in particular, were loud in their complaints. One stall holder, interviewed about the situation, said “there were some men who were never satisfied with anything, and these, of course, ain’t satisfied, but the sensible men are well pleased with their new quarters.”
The new market building was formally opened for the public on Saturday December 18, 1886, just in time for the Christmas rush.
A temporary platform was erected in the centre of the building and at 8 a.m., used it to deliver some remarks. He congratulated the Market, Fire and Police committee and its chairman, Alderman Kenrick, for the successful completion of such an excellent building.
The mayor also congratulated the architect and the contractors for their first class work in designing and erecting what he felt was the best building for market purposes in the province.
The mayor also expressed his hope that the merchants who had occupied the old market sheds would be as successful in the new building as they had been in the past.
As described in the Spectator, after the building was formally opened, there were “three cheers for the market building, three for the Queen, one cheer for Brother Blake (butcher, not politician), the lessees who were standing proudly in front of their handsome new stalls joining in the cheers, and then hurrying inside to attend to their customers.”