Market Alley

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Looking east into Market Alley from Columbia St. | Photo: Scout Magazine

Market Alley | place name | The section of alleyway between Hastings St. and Pender St. that runs between Carrall St. in Gastown and Main St. in Chinatown. So named on account of the constant hustle and bustle of the narrow thoroughfare and the open market that used to operate at the alley’s eastern terminus (where City Hall was once located).

City Hall and the Carnegie Library on Main at Hastings, circa 1910 | CVA 677-655. Photo: Philip T. Timms.

In its early/mid 20th century heyday, Market Alley was filled with fly-by-night merchants, back entranceways to sketchy eateries famed for drug sales (eg. Blue Eagle Cafe), secret opium dens and gambling rooms. This is where the Pantages Theatre had its stage door entrance/exit, and where adventurous Vancouver diners went in search of the Green Door.

Today (and for many years now), Market Alley is not a stretch of pavement many Vancouverites regularly pound (if ever). Sadly, it has become ground zero in the fentanyl epidemic, functioning not only as a conduit in the hard drug trade but also as an open air toilet.

Usage: “You hear all these great stories about the former glories of Market Alley, but it’s hard to imagine it because of the stench of piss…”


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