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Reading Terminal Market

on Fri, 07/11/2014 - 19:39

If you are walking in Philadelphia you would be hard pressed to miss stopping at the one of the biggest and oldest inner-city enclosed marketplaces.

The Reading Terminal Market is an enclosed public market found at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over one hundred merchants offer fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, and specialty and ethnic foods. Every space in the market is rented out; three of the vendors are descendants of original market merchants. The market is open every day of the week (regular hours: M-Sat: 8am-6pm; Sun: 9am-5pm).

The Reading Terminal Market occupies the ground floor and basement levels of the Reading Terminal's former train shed. Open-air markets flourished in Philadelphia since its founding in the 1600's. Growth of the city demanded more markets, and the string of open-air markets extending from the Delaware River ran for six blocks, or one full mile, prompting the main street (then called 'High Street') to be renamed 'Market Street.'

After the markets reached their peak growth and capacity, open-air markets within the city became seen as dirty and unhygienic by the public. The frenzy of activity along the main street was seen as a nuisance and traffic hazard.

With the popularity of trains, the terminal market opened in 1891. One of the main features of the building was a huge refrigerated storage room in the basement. It was so valuable that it had a larger staff than the market itself. At the time refrigeration was a valuable resource. It allowed merchants to keep seasonal products on stock all year round for the first time.

The storage area was also leased out to third parties for storing other goods. Restaurants and plant and produce sellers around the area leased out space in the basement. Hospitals used the basement area to store perishable medicine. Local Breweries, including Yuengling, used it to store their hops.

There were 380 merchants in the first year of operations, and the market had nearly full occupancy for the following 60 years. Business, already good, flourished with the innovation of a free market basket service, which allowed suburban housewives to get grocery orders delivered to and held at their nearest train station. Refrigerated trucks allowed the market to reach into some 60 suburban towns as well as seaside resorts along the New Jersey shore.

The depression and later the suburbanization of America and decline of the railroads, severely affected the market. The market began running a deficit in 1954, and by 1959 was only 70 percent occupied. The railroad company filed for bankruptcy in 1971. In the 1980s the Reading Company began efforts to revitalize the market. Those efforts continued after SEPTA Regional Rail trains moved from the train terminal above the market to the new underground Market East Station below it in 1984.

Today the market serves as a popular source for culinary treats and unique merchandise. This is a classic indoor marketplace where you can get a taste of all local Philadelphia products. Don't miss it.


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