Originally opened in 1893 as one of the first indoor markets in Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal Market was located under the elevated train shed of the Reading Railroad (which owned and operated the market until 1976). Open air markets had been plentiful in town since the founding of Philadelphia. The city’s growth demanded more and more markets, resulting in a string of them from the Delaware River for six blocks. This prompted the renaming of the main street to “Market Street” in 1858. Soon, the open-air concept was viewed as dirty and unhealthy. In 1859, the city dismantled all of them, while creating two “indoor” markets; the Franklin Market and the Farmers’ Market. Later, these would become the foundation for Reading Terminal Market. By 1891, Reading Railroad Terminal was designed and opened two years later. That same year, a state-of-the-art refrigeration storage area was built in the basement of the terminal, allowing for seasonal products to be stocked all year. During those early years, there were over 380 merchants selling their wares here. The Great Depression of the 1930’s saw a decline in the market, but it still survived. With suburbanization and the decline of the railroads during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the market suffered again. Reading Railroad Company finally filed for bankruptcy in 1971 and ended business in 1976. Ownership of the market changed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 1990. The ground floor market space now boasts over 100 merchants selling fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese, groceries, ice cream, etc. with two of these current vendors as descendants of the original ones. Today, the Reading Terminal Market is listed as a tourist attraction and has been featured in a number of motion pictures, e.g. “Trading Places” and “National Treasure.”
Opened in 1893 under the Reading Railroad’s elevated train shed, the Reading Terminal Market began life as the “Franklin Market” and the “Farmers’ Market”. The city of Philadelphia had created these first indoor markets after dismantling a city block area of “open air markets” because of complaints that they were dirty and unhealthy.
Archival photo of the Reading Terminal Market at the turn of the century.
While shopping, you can pick up breakfast or lunch. A number of the restaurant vendors are Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch/Germans of Swiss German Anabaptist origins) and we happened to find a particularly wonderful lunch counter where we have a delicious Amish style lunch