Sep 18, 2016 News
By Rehanna Ramsay
Like a pleasant memory, the true beauty of Stabroek Market is etched deep within. For any local, a visit to Stabroek Market is nothing out of the ordinary. Hundreds of people traverse ‘big market’ everyday without even taking note of the significance of the iconic structure or observing the magnificence of centuries old steel structure.
For many Guyanese, Stabroek Market, is regarded as nothing more than a space to conduct business. This is notwithstanding the everyday bustling with people and vending activities of all types. I was among that group of people, recently.
That visit sparked a newfound admiration for its culture; a culture that many stallholders and vendors are struggling to preserve.
For them, the marketplace is more than a place to “do business.” Its historic value, they say, is incomparable to anywhere else.
Many of the current businesses operate out of decades-old stalls, some of which were passed down from generation to generation.
They have been calling on the relevant authorities to have the space adequately rehabilitated.
“Stabroek Market is a heritage site. It is what many Guyanese (overseas- based) and tourists come to see when they are in Guyana. I believe people like it (the culture) because it is different from anywhere else. It’s a visitor’s paradise, one to be preserved,” one stallholder stated.
According to information obtained from the National Trust of Guyana, the present market is the second market structure erected at the Stabroek Square. The first one did not exist until 1792. It was not located at the present site.
The current construction of the iron and steel structure was conceptualized in the mid 1800s by the then Georgetown Town Council. Designed by an American engineer, Nathaniel McKay, the market houses at least a 1000 business offering a variety of items for sale.
The market covers an area of about 80,000 square feet, is 278 feet in length and is 276 feet wide, and is said to be one of the oldest surviving steel structures built in the 1800s. Edgemoor Iron Company of Delaware, USA is said to have completed their work on the Market over the period in 1880-1881.
Given its central location, the market is regarded as the busiest part of the capital city. The structure has been regarded as the largest public market in the Caribbean and certainly ranks among the world’s largest all metal market and continues to be a centre of economic activity.
The view from atop Stabroek Market clock tower
With the prominent clock tower reminiscent of Guyana’s Victorian era, the Stabroek Market has earned the reputation of having distinctive architectural qualities.
I have passed through Stabroek Market on numerous occasions without stopping to take a second glance at my surroundings.
I would have even marched by the entrance under the clock without noticing the winding staircase—now shrouded by vending activities—leading to the top of the Stabroek Market.
But a recent visit to Stabroek Market changed all of that. I had the opportunity to climb three levels to the top of the structure of the architectural fortitude.
The experience remains by far one of my favourite memories of the Stabroek marketplace. Seeing, Georgetown, Guyana from this point is nothing short of amazing.
“O’beautiful Guyana!” I exclaimed.
Standing atop Stabroek market, one could see the entire layout of the city; Water Street leading to Kingston; Avenue of the Republic to Camp Street and almost Vlissengen Road. Many of city’s landmarks can be seen from this spot.
I noticed, too, how tranquil and orderly the city appeared from this point in comparison to being on the ground.
The Demerara River was one of the most soothing features. Observing the water taxis traversing the river, was like watching ants at work. There, I watched the vehicular traffic making its way to and from the Demerara Harbour Bridge, located a few miles upriver.
In the east, an aircraft appeared to be approaching the Ogle Airstrip to land. “Enlightening and breathtaking; I was most definitely impressed.” In fact, I felt like a tourist in my own homeland.”
Stallholders who would have had the opportunity of climbing atop the market opined that “If people could see the city from this vantage point. They would realise there is no point fighting.”
They noted that the market has the potential to attract an increased number of local and foreign tourists. It is in this same vein that stallholders and businesspeople of the Stabroek Market believe that the iconic structure should be rehabilitated and maintained.
“I say resuscitate the clock and the bell, refurbish the stairway and open the area for visitors for a fee. The Georgetown Mayor and City Council can definitely earn some revenue from it,” one businessman noted
“The entire market can use a bit of sprucing up; there is so much to see here,” another contended.
“There is need for adequate space for consumers and visitors to park. The space that was once used as the Bus Park is ideal.”
I concurred. Being on top is certainly worth a trip.
With the emergence of shopping malls and supermarkets across the country, Stabroek Market remains commercially competitive
It offers products and services at prices to compete many of the shopping malls and super centres.
Among the stalls there at least 38 cell phone depots and 16 stalls that vend local snacks and cuisines, several jewelry stores and hundreds of stalls which sell clothes and local produce.
“We want it that way; we like the market feel; it is in keeping with the culture and symmetry of the market.”
The market is usually open every day for business expect Sundays and half day for one Wednesday in every month.
But recently, the market has adapted a schedule of being closed every Wednesday at half day to facilitate cleaning; something stallholders say is a source for concern. They believe that it would be a blow to their competitiveness.
“If the market is closed at half day on Wednesday people eventually don’t want to shop that day and we (the business people) loose an entire of business.”
They stressed that the market is cleaned everyday and should not be closed every Wednesday. “We would lose 52 days on the working calendar. That would definitely be a blow to stallholders.”
We have to compete with these other businesses in and around Georgetown. It would not do us any good to close the market every Wednesday.
A bad rap
The Stallholders stressed that often the Stabroek Market gets a bad rap for crimes which occur in the vicinity of the market. When crimes happen in the vicinity, for exqample at Parliament Building or Demico House, people are quick to say that it happened at Stabroek Market.
They regard the entire area as Stabroek Market. But the market is relatively safe. There were instances of a bit of snatching here and there but nothing to be blown out of proportion.
Nevertheless, vendors and stallholders agreed that there is need for a bit more vigilance and security in and around the market.
“We could use a bit more security and the market constables can be more vigilant to alleviate the amount of loitering in the market. People come here to do business and they want to be safe.”
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