Falmouth Field Guide

Albert George Market

Built in 1894, the Albert George Market is the most prominent landmark of Falmouth’s Water Square. It was erected to provide permanent shelter to an activity that has presumably taken place on this site since the town’s foundation or soon thereafter. Located on the southeast edge of the square, the structure has two distinct portions. The first of these is a single-story masonry gatehouse structure with a three-story masonry and wood-frame tower rising from the center. Designed as the building’s main façade, the gatehouse faces Upper Harbor Street—the main commercial artery heading out of town to the east—rather than onto the square itself. In keeping with the town’s Georgian character, familiar architectural forms of Caribbean neoclassicism are present in the gatehouse façade. The building’s corners and window surrounds are enlivened with quoins, while the gateway arch is crowned with a pediment at its center. Clock faces alternate with arched windows in the octagonal tower. The one-story wings on either side of the gateway arch each contain a single room accessed by doors in the rear wall.

Three panels positioned at the sides of the gate record the building’s construction. The upper panel to the east of the gate is engraved with the name of the building and its date of erection flanked by two Stars of David. Below is a panel listing the name of the Kingston-based construction firm that undertook the project, Purdon and Cox. To the west of the gate, a panel records the names of two local men, the Honorable L. C. Shirley, Chairman of the Trelawny Parish Council, and A. M. Solomon, Esq., Chairman of the Market Commission. Judging by the number of Solomons buried in the Jewish cemetery, A. M. Solomon was probably a member of Falmouth’s sizable Jewish community.

The second portion of the building is a large open-air market arcade. Twenty-six columns support a two-part, hipped roof that shelters what was once a large and empty market floor, intended to be occupied by vendors. The columns, and the roof-framing system they support, are constructed of cast iron, a technologically advanced material in the late nineteenth century. During the second half of the twentieth century, changing shopping habits resulted in four frame, free standing shop buildings, built in the open areas of the market floor. A number of businesses now occupy these buildings, in what was intended to be a shared commercial space. The Albert George Market is a polished example of an architectural type for commercial spaces located at the center of a town in the late nineteenth century. Brown’s Town, located inland on the border of Trelawny and St. Ann Parishes, has a similar market structure that appears to date from the same period.

As a result, the architecture of the building is remarkably complex. The cast iron sheds to the rear emulate the vast sheds behind contemporary English train stations, technologically modern and sublime. Conversely, the clock tower enlists architectural details from the prevailing Georgian tradition—the quoins at the corners of the masonry front and around the windows, and the arched entryway with the pediment above—well over a half century after that style had fallen out of favor. In this way the building connected with both the future—modernism and technology—and the past, the period of Falmouth’s economic zenith.