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Nassau’s new Straw Market

Spacious new quarters

Nassau’s world-famous Straw Market will soon be reborn in a brand-new building on Bay St. This imposing $11.3-million structure is located on Bay at the foot of Market St, the same spot where the old market once stood.

Fire gutted that building in 2001. Since then vendors have worked out of a huge tent located on the harbourfront, with entrances on Bay St and Woodes Rogers Walk.

Officials gathered at the new Straw Market construction site for a roof-topping ceremony last November. Construction will be completed in 2011.

The building is designed to allow entry from all directions into a pleasant, uncrowded space. Live entertainment will be featured in a gazebo on the mezzanine level. An elevator will take visitors to an air-conditioned second level.

The new market will include space for about 400 booths, wide aisles and a number of areas where craftspeople can display their talents. An outdoor area on the waterfront will include 14 wood-carvers’ stations and food booths in a shady environment.

The new Straw Market occupies the same location as other marketplaces that have stood here since 1790. During the 19th century, residents bought all their groceries at large wooden sheds on the waterfront. Those buildings were replaced in 1901 by the City Market, a two-storey stone structure.

The tradition of selling straw work didn’t emerge until the 1920s, when enterprising women trekked down from the Fox Hill district to sell sisal goods in Rawson Square.

Straw-crafters started to set up their stalls in the City Market in the mid-1930s and soon outnumbered those selling fruits and vegetables. After the Second World War, when tourism exploded in The Bahamas, straw-work grew in popularity. That business was interrupted in 1974, when the old market burned down.

Merchants couldn’t return to their former location until 1983, when the government completed work on the Market Plaza building. Now, in 2011, vendors have another new and much improved place of business.

Nassau’s new Straw Market
Spacious new quarters

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