In Search of Fairfax

Farmers Market

The land surrounding what is now the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue had been in the hands of the Gilmore family since the 19th Century, first as a dairy farm and then as a profitable oil field. The Great Depression, however, was not kind on the Gilmore family. Looking for new sources of income, Earl Gilmore was approached by two local entrepreneurs, Roger Dalhjelm and Fred Beck, with the concept of allowing nearby farmers to sell their produce to local residents on his land for 50 cents a day. Gilmore agreed. Under Dalhjelm and Beck’s management, Farmers Market opened in July of 1934 with 18 vendors who sold produce out of their trucks. The market, as local historians David Hamlin and Brett Arena noted, was “an utterly unique blend of rustic and urban." That is, while the farmers were part of Los Angeles’s older agrarian tradition, the market was in the middle of a rapidly developing metropolitan area and primarily appealed to an urban clientele's desire for fresh produce. 

Within a month, as the number of local vendors and daily customers rapidly grew, makeshift stalls were constructed to replace the trucks. Other changes were imminent: the market diversified its offerings to include restaurants, grocery stores, and magazine stands and soon began to host its annual Fall Festival harvest celebration. The Los Angeles Times was instrumental in helping to publicize the market  during these foundational years. Beck’s daily column, “Farmers Market…With Fred Beck” promoted the markets' events and offering; Hollywood gossip columnist extraordinaire Hedda Hopper frequently reported upon the Hollywood celebrity sightings at the market. Spotting actors Stu Erwin and June Collyer, for example, Hopper noted, "I've come upon them strolling hand in hand at the Farmers' Market while choosing fruit and vegetables." Along with Gilmore Stadium and Gilmore Field, Farmers Market helped to anchor the "Gilmore Island" as a popular destination for tourists and local shoppers alike, only a few blocks from, what was emerging as the commercial heart of Jewish Los Angeles. 

Sources: David Hamlin and Brett Arena, Los Angeles’s Original Farmers Market (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2009); Hedda Hopper, "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood," The Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1938; Lynn C Kronzek and Southern California Jewish Historical Society, Fairfax: A Home, a Community, a Way of Life (Los Angeles: Jewish Historical Society of Southern California, 1990). 


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