Considered to be the birthplace of Ottawa, the ByWard Market was laid-out by Lt. Col. John By in 1826 as a trading post for the contractors, suppliers and workers who were building the Rideau Canal system. Bytown was incorporated in 1847, while Ottawa was incorporated in 1855.
In the late 1800s, the ByWard Market established the beginning of commerce in Ottawa. Today, the area is a mixture of tourist attractions, market stalls, shops, nightlife and restaurants that serve to maintain the historical integrity. Yet, some of the original flavour has been lost with an eclectic mix of use.
Further west, the Parkdale Market also has deep roots in Ottawa with a strip of vendors tucked into an area just west of Parkdale Avenue and north of Wellington Street. The market is open seven-days a week from April to October, with fruit, vegetable and flower vendors.
Jeff Darwin, Executive Director of Marchés d’Ottawa Markets, is tasked with revitalizing and preserving both the ByWard and Parkdale markets. The mandate for managing these areas is to provide a diverse market that celebrates the heritage and culture of its communities, with a true market spirit that gives priority to local vendors.
Jeff has strong roots in Ottawa. His father, Howard Darwin was a well-known businessman who purchased the franchise for the Ottawa 67s’ hockey club and ultimately contributed to the development of the Ottawa Civic Centre at Lansdowne Park. Jeff has written a book about his fathers challenging childhood and dynamic career called, The Ten Count.
Growing up in Queensway Terrace South, Jeff worked several odd jobs for his father and had an upbringing that helped to develop his community-minded spirit. Jeff and his wife Wendy purchased their first home in Wellington West, and their lifestyle included many trips to the nearby Parkdale Market. Today his office sits in the heart of the ByWard Market at 55 Market Square.
While Jeff has a pulse on what keeps a good market thriving, he is open to suggestions and contributions from the city. He intends to work with volunteer boards, the BIA and members of the community at large. Jeff doesn’t see any big challenges with the Parkdale Market, and says he is excited about the growth of opportunities.
“I’m truly looking forward to working with Councillor Leiper, Dennis Van Staalduinen at the BIA and Matt Whitehead of the Wellington Community Association on near-term programing/operational wins like tree maintenance and lighting in the park.”
Local artist, historian and Ottawa At Home contributor Andrew King is on board to help with the preservation of historical elements of the markets to reimagine their logos and create some fresh branding. Currently, public feedback includes the desire for a continued commitment to food vendors and enhanced experiences with the potential for a Christmas market and possibly a carousel for children. Jeff considers all of these to be areas with opportunities.