Eat Well and Be Merrie for Tyme is Swift.

Since 1934, the corner of 3rd and Fairfax became home to a place the Los Angeles Times said was like no other food market in the world. By 1941, the 5-acre corner spot 'where the cars turn in' was home to exactly what it started out to be; a marketplace where people could shop for flowers, meats, groceries, poultry and fresh vegetables. There were approximately twenty stalls run by real farmers and produce dealers.

Reporting on it's debut, the Los Angeles Times noted that according to management, patronage was good, prices were fair and while most produce offered was grown and sold by small farmers, hucksters were barred from the picture. In fact, stringent rules were put in place to keep things nice and ship shape: only farmers who actually grew their crops were permitted to occupy stalls, and each farmer agreed to pick fresh each morning the produce they intended to sell that day. Additionaly, regulations stated that no farmer would sell left-overs. For the privilege, farmers paid a nominal fee and were allowed to take stalls by the day, week or month. Parking was free and accomodated 500 vehicles.

By the 1940's, there were about eighty places to shop and eat, including Du-Pars Farmhouse - famous for their pies. The venerable diner is still serving it up. And in the fall of 1955, oilman and philanthropost Earl Bell Gilmore opened Gilmore Commercial and Savings Bank on the east end of the parking lot, complete with drive-up tellers. Within a few years, one of the 'showplaces in the Southland' was attracting as many as 40,000 people a day. Although while Farmers Market had no major stores, there was however Earl B. Gilmore's large outdoor theater.

The humble trading post and surrounding area thrived well into the next two decades. In the early 1950s, the northwest corner of Gilmore Island saw Gilmore Stadium replaced with CBS Television City, built by William L. Pereira and Charles Luckman. By the early 1970's, the Los Angeles institution was known as a gastronomical experience, with people discovering international menus and partaking in scrumptious deserts from Michael's Cheesecake, Magee's Nut Shop, and Carson's Candy Kitchen. Those in search of far-our Far East items could peruse everything from windchimes and baskets to Japanese moonstone at Far East Traders and top it off with a hearty meal at the Little General Lee Kitchen.

To visit Farmers Market is to suddenly re-awaken all the senses. There are oranges the size of baseballs, imported silk from Polynesia to touch and strawberries so large they don't bother putting them into baskets.

The sounds are the sounds of people discovering the fun that awaits them here. It's discovering actors and actresses on their lunchbreak from nearby CBS Studios. And it's the sounds of families discovering the tremendous selection of exotic fruits and vegetables available all year in So. Calif. Holiday Inn Magazine for Travelers. March-April issue, 1972

Popularity notwithstanding, in 1984 the landmark survived a proposed teardown from its owners in favor of a 52-acre development. And five years later, locals once again were irate over a $300-million plan for a Farmers Market Mall. Proposed for 1993, the three-level retail development would be anchored by heavy hitters Nordstrom and May Company. Leading the charge for expansion was Farmers Market president Henry Hilty Jr., the grandson of Earl Gilmore.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times in October 1990, Hilty headlined his commentary "We Can't Survive on Memories Alone", and argued the project (which included a hotel and office building) would provide an economic base to ensure its future. At that time, Farmers Market was drawing around 10,000 shoppers each weekday. Over half of them were tourists.

However, the most dramatic change came in 1998 when the owners teamed up with local developer Rick Caruso to build an open-air 25-acre shopping center. Known as The Grove, the $100-million complex built alonside the cherished market was planned for the year 2000.

Despite some opposition, construction on the scaled-down project began where Gilmore Bank and Gilmore Drive-In once stood. The $160-million retail complex designed to resemble a village square opened in early 2002, complete with Nordstrom department store, a dancing water display, an old-timey trolley, a 14-screen movie theater and over 50 new stores and restaurants.

This gorgeous souvenir booklet dates to around 1952 (although a few images were pulled from a similar booklet printed around the same time).


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