Reading Terminal Market
12th and Arch Sts., 215/922-2317
HOURS: Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–4 p.m.
Picture the Reading Terminal Market more than a century ago amid a mass of trains bringing goods and people in and out of the city, and you’ll know how far it has come in its long history. Today, it is flanked on one side by the Gallery, a massive urban mall, and on the other by a state-of-the-art convention center. It has survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the decline of the railroads, and it is as much a marvel today as it was at the turn of the 20th century.
Reading Terminal Market opened its doors in 1892 in response to a backlash against outdoor markets that were beginning to be viewed as a health hazard. The new market was laid out in a tidy grid system similar to the streets of downtown Philadelphia.
Twelve aisles and four larger avenues were aligned in the spacious cavern beneath the elevated train shed of the Reading Railroad. Proximity to the railroad made it the perfect place for shipping and receiving goods and provided easy access for Pennsylvania Dutch merchants to peddle their wares.
In the 1970s, the Reading Railroad filed for bankruptcy and attempted to dismantle the market to make it easier to sell the terminal. Fortunately, they changed their minds and began efforts to revitalize it in the 1980s. What remains is one of Philadelphia’s most proud and well-utilized sites.
Today the railroad runs underneath the market instead of above it, and Amish merchants still have a significant presence, bringing some of the best baked goods, meats, and produce. They have been joined by vendors selling everything from cheesesteaks to Vietnamese cuisine to fresh-baked cookies, making it an excellent place for lunch and one of the best spots in Philadelphia to buy affordable and delicious produce, meats, seafood, and a dizzying array of prepared foods.
Philadelphia chefs from many local restaurants visit the market early each morning for the very freshest ingredients, and a wide assortment of lasting goods like wearable art, artisan candles, gourmet cookware, and crafts from around the globe are also available.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition