Historic Iron Market (Le Marche En Fer) Rebuilt Just One Year After The Earthquake That Devastated It

As the first public building to have been completely restored since the devastating January 12th earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince – which was decimated in the quake – has been re-built and will be open for business in the coming days. The entire reconstruction project was completed in just eleven months.

The official opening of the re-constructed building took place in Port Au Prince today with the ceremony performed by President Bill Clinton, the Mayor of Port- au-Prince, Muscadin Jean-Yves Jason, Daniel Elie of ISPAN and two Iron Market vendors, Christophe Loge and Myrtha Sanon.

Decimated by a 2008 fire and the 2010 earthquake, the Iron Market was built in the 1890s in Paris. It was originally intended for a station in Cairo but was bought by Haitian President Florvil Hyppolite when the Egyptian deal fell through.

The rebuilding project has been funded and spearheaded by Denis and Catherine O’Brien in a personal capacity and is valued at US$12 million. Denis O’Brien is Chairman of Digicel Group.

It is estimated that over 900 vendors will operate from the new building selling arts and crafts, fruit and vegetables, dry produce and beauty products – many of these had stands in the Iron Market for years prior to last year’s earthquake which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Port Au Prince.

President Bill Clinton said; “Denis O’Brien has been a catalyst for many of the good things that have happened in Haiti, both before and after the earthquake. Since last year, he’s been the facilitator for our Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network, and to date, CGI members have made more than $224 million in commitments since the earthquake. I’m delighted to be here today at the opening of the Iron Market which is a cultural, economic and social landmark in Haiti.”

Denis O’Brien comments; “A hive of economic activity, a place where industrious men and women meet, the economic engine for so many families – the Iron Market is as important as a social and community entity as it is a place of trade.

He continues; “The project to rebuild the Iron Market back to its former glory is more far reaching than an architectural achievement. It is an important symbol of the country’s recovery from the devastation and a window to a brighter future for the Haitian people. I would like to thank the many wonderful people who helped to make our dreams and visions a reality and the Mayor of Port au Prince, Muscadin Jean-Yves Jason and Daniel Elie from ISPAN for their fantastic support.”

Although several major obstacles were encountered during the project -  like the rainy season, the cholera outbreak and a tropical storm stopping work on the site for a total of 20 days and the soil being mostly silt and so requiring engineered backfill to provide the requisite solid foundations – the team succeeded in bringing the project in right on time.

Local workers, materials and other services were utilised as much as possible in the re-building project and at one stage, the number of workers peaked at 750.

In terms of the project itself, the clay tiles on the iconic Clock Tower roof are manufactured by the maker of the original tiles in 1891 in France and the energy supply for the new Iron Market building will be provided by 533 solar panels – the largest solar installation in the Caribbean.

As a result of the large amount of masonry work required for other projects in the Haitian capital – including the rebuilding of homes, other buildings and roads – there were several acute shortages of concrete in the country. The shortage was due mostly to the lack of river sand.  This delayed the building of the North Market foundations by weeks but it did not impact the overall schedule.

The parapet wall of the North Market is made entirely of bricks bought locally which were recycled from earthquake damaged and destroyed buildings. The bricks in the Clock Tower walls are those from the original structure made in France.  During the deconstruction of the Clock Tower, it was dismantled brick by brick.

With the clocks damaged beyond repair, no mechanical pieces left and the porcelain faces cracked, replacement clocks were produced to be visually identical with the same script and hands as the original.  The new clock however is a modern timepiece that is backlit so that it can be seen at night.

Decimated by a fire and the earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince has now been restored as a cultural, historic and architectural landmark in Haiti.