Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

History of the Market

Market Decline

In the postwar years, sweeping changes in where people lived, how they traveled, and where they shopped signaled problems for the Market's viability. The Reading Railroad's revenue declined and it had less to invest in the Market's upkeep. The roof started leaking and the building deteriorated. Compounding these challenges, new food safety regulations required farmers and merchants to invest in modern equipment. The cost and inconvenience led some to leave.

Then, in 1976 the Reading Company leased the Market to a management firm that raised rents dramatically. This decision combined with the rundown condition of the Market and a shrinking customer base drove out more merchants. By the late 1970s, conditions were so bad that only the most diehard merchants and their most loyal customers kept the Market afloat. Several years later, the Reading Company bought back the lease and began to reinvest in the aging infrastructure. New management recruited new merchants, including Amish farmers and Asian produce vendors, and organized promotional events to bring in more customers.

"The market, one of Philadelphia's great public spaces, is an integral part of the new convention center...It must be saved as part of the city's daily life..."

Thomas Hine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1992

"I'm here for about 38 years, and back in those days it was the finest market on the East coast. They had one in New York that was good, too, but I think this was the best."

--Harry G. Ochs, Market butcher

"The Market (continues to) exist only by the winking and clinking of city officials."

Harry R. Belinger, Former City Commerce Director, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1977

 

Market Timeline

1680 Informal markets formed around Front and High (Market) Streets near where farmers and fisherman brought their goods from southern New Jersey.

1693 Local government agreed to have a formal market with a market head house located where Second Street crossed High Street.

1709 First permanent head house was built in the middle of Second and High Streets. Known as "Towne Hall" the building served as Pennsylvania's capitol until 1735.

1741 On market days, Wednesday and Saturdays, iron chains were put up at sunrise to protect shoppers from the carts and carriages.

1745 New Market at Second and Pine Streets opened. The market house was added in 1804.

1769 North Second Street Market at Second and Coates (later Fairmount) opened

1790s Market sheds or shambles lined High Street from Second to Sixth Street

1815 Ordinance passed for building a fish market on High Street east of Water Street

1822 City ordinance approved the rebuilding of the 1720s Jersey Market House on Market Street between Front and Second Streets.

1836 The Columbia-Philadelphia Railroad began laying streetcar tracks on High Street. Streetcars were not permitted to run on market days.

1837 City Commissioners voted to demolish the 1709 market house to make way for new market houses made of cast iron.

1858 Market Street had nine market houses that stretched from Water to Eighth Street and two markets west of Broad Street between Fifteenth and Seventeenth Streets

1858 City ordinance changed the name of High Street to Market Street.

1859 Select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia directed the Commissioner of Markets to remove the outdoor market structures located on east Market Street and those located west of Broad Street.

1860 The indoor Butchers' and Farmers' Market located in the 1100 block of Market Street opened for business. The indoor Franklin Market was established on 10th Street south of Market Street, but by 1885 had relocated next to the Butchers' and Farmers' Market.

1890 The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company consolidated its four Philadelphia terminals to build one large terminal in downtown Philadelphia. The Company purchased the 1110 block of Market Street.

1891 Construction began on the Reading Terminal after the Company agreed to build a market underneath the new railroad station.

1892 The Reading Terminal Market opened for business. Merchants at the Butchers and Farmers' Market and the Franklin Market moved into the new Reading Terminal Market.

1893 Train service began at the new Reading Terminal.

1913 Reading Terminal Market advertised itself as the "Source of Main Food Supply of Philadelphia and Adjacent Territory" with 250 specialized dealers and 100 farmers occupying the stalls

1930 Merchants organized the Reading Terminal Market Merchants' Association to stem the loss of business from the City's new parking regulations and the downturn in the economy. Merchants offered customers free nearby parking.

1933 The Reading Company invested in new doorways and six refrigerated show windows along Twelfth Street.

1934 Reading Terminal Market Merchants' Association celebrated its fourth year in with the Third Food Show and Home -Progress Exposition with 140 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees. The Harry Taylor orchestra provided music throughout the nine day festival.

1935 The market had 400 phone lines to take call-in orders.

1941 Rationing during World War II brought episodic meat and dairy shortages to the nation

1950s-60s New local and federal regulations intended to improve safety of the food supply increased merchants' cost of doing business.

1971 Reading Company declared bankruptcy and no longer invested in the upkeep of the market.

1970s-80s Preservationists who wanted to save the market battled with those who wanted to demolish it to advance the East Market Redevelopment plan

1976 The Reading Company leased the Market to a real estate speculator 15 years. He raised rents driving out 30 of the 56 remaining merchants.

1979 Reading Terminal Market was only 20% occupied.

1980 The Reading Company emerged from bankruptcy, bought out the lease, and began to invest in the market.

1983 The market was 60% occupied and had become a center for charitable and seasonable food events and impromptu piano concerts.

1984 The last train left the Reading Terminal.

1985 The new Market East Station with rail and subway services connecting all major transportation lines opened underneath the market.

1988 Supporters of the market organized The Reading Terminal Market Preservation Fund to ensure that the market retained its character as the convention center project developed.

1990 Pennsylvania Convention Center bought the Reading Terminal Market.

1992 The Food Trust was founded as a program of the Reading Terminal Market

1993 The adjacent Pennsylvania Convention Center opened and brought new customers to the market.

1994 Non-profit Reading Terminal Market Corporation created to manage the market.

2000 The Reading Terminal Market was 100% occupied, a result of growth in downtown residential population and tourism.

2012 The Reading Terminal Market celebrated 120 years of bringing fresh and local food to Philadelphia.