From the bustling crowds of shoppers to the colorful carts loaded with flowers, crisp fresh produce, warm from the oven baked-goods and gourmet meats, fish and cheeses, the the Reading Terminal Market is a feast for the senses and the palate. From its beginning in 1893 to the present day, Reading Terminal Market has been a mecca for locals and tourists alike.
A lesson in history
Since the early days, Philadelphia’s founding farmer’s markets have been a rich tradition. Over time, the numerous pushcarts, kiosks and stalls stalled traffic and clogged streets until eventually they congregated in a central location six blocks long along the Delaware River, on a street that was renamed Market Street.
Nonetheless, over time, the sprawl continued, and in the interests of traffic and food safety, the city consolidated the many smaller into just two farmer’s markets – the Franklin Market and the Farmer’s market. These two markets are the foundation for what we know today as the Reading Terminal Market. When the two markets united and moved indoors in 1892, Reading terminal market encompassed 78,000 square feet held nearly 800 spaces for merchants, each positioned in six foot stalls, 500,000 square feet of refrigerated space, and 6-foot stalls for vendors.
In a precursor to today’s grocery delivery services, suburban housewives could place their orders and the railroad delivered the baskets of groceries to local train stations for pickup. The free service proved popular, even as train service gave way to horse drawn carriages and then trucks for delivery.
The Great Depression and the turmoil of the early twentieth century caused economic problems for the railroads and the marketplace. In the 1990s, a new plan to revitalize the market and make it a part of the entry to the new convention center came to pass, and the Reading Terminal Market we know today came into being.
Today, a stroll through the aisles of the Reading Terminal Market delights the eye with its mouth-watering display of fresh foods, exotic spices and free-range or organic meats. Hand-made crafts, jewelry and artwork are also on display, and passersby have their choice of restaurants to stop for a meal or a drink.
If you are looking for more historic sites, M Restaurant situated at the Morris House Hotel, is another stop to make. The hotel is a virtual twin to the “first White House” which is located nearby. The beautiful outdoor gardens at the hotel and restaurant are a delightful place for a drink or an after-dinner stroll. The M Library, a beautiful room with a fireplace and access to the patio and garden, may be reserved for parties of six to twenty people for an intimate dining experience among the historic artifacts.
The M Restaurant’s menu changes daily, since it prides itself on serving fresh, locally grown ingredients, many from the family’s own farm. After touring the Reading Terminal Market, stop by for an unforgettable day of seeing some of Philadelphia’s greatest gems.