Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market

In grade school I had a wonderful teacher named Ms. Tuzman who was in the charge of the mentally gifted program. Her teaching went beyond what was offered in the traditional classroom. It was in her class where I first learned about the legal process, famous Supreme Court Cases and even participated in mock trials (all of this before I even became a teenager). She took our group of students all over Philadelphia, traveling via bus, trolley, the El and even the subway and visiting such sites as the Mutter Museum (creepy but fantastic!), the Wagner Free Institute of Science, the main branch of the Philadelphia Public Library, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (She was the sole adult but thankfully our group of 10 or so kids was basically good.) My favorite part about outings around the city was that we often got to go to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Although this is a fantastic place for a person of any age, being able to walk about it as an 11 year old on your own with friends (sans adults) was incredible fun. Sadly, I don’t see that kind of independence still taking place in today’s much more frightening and less carefree world.

On my recent visit to Philadelphia earlier this month, we stopped at the Market which is located right in the heart of the city’s downtown. Although I wrote about the market before in a post from a couple of years ago, I hadn’t been there in years, so it was a real treat to visit again and just enjoy the experience.

The Market is old-121 years old to be exact. The Reading Railroad Company opened the 78,000 square-foot market  that held nearly 800 spaces for vendors below the tracks of their massive new train shed (back when trains in the United States were actually important). The market weathered some tough times over the years but things really started to go downhill in 1971 when the Reading Railroad went bankrupt. However, in 1980 new attention was focused upon the struggling market and a fresh turnaround ensued, including the recruitment of new merchants (at its worst time, only 23 vendors remained). Then in 1990 the building was sold with the new owners refurbishing the Market to strict historic preservation standards.

Visitors today will find the Market home to almost 80 independently-owned small businesses representing a diverse assortment of nationalities. While the Market is immensely popular with locals, many of whom do their weekly shopping there, it’s also famous on a world scale. United States commerce is often thought of as having lost its individual,unique charm, as in the supermarket rules the world. However, once a visitor steps foot inside the Market they will see how far from the truth this actually is.

The Market sells everything…no joke. Bakery treats, beverages, dairy and cheese, flowers and plants, housewares, books, crafts, meats and poultry, seafood, produce, specialty foods and restaurants-it’s all found inside the famous building at 12th and Arch Streets. And although these are foods you normally will want to avoid if you’re on a diet, there are Pennsylvania Dutch vendors selling everything from home canned fruits and vegetables to pretzels to Amish-style sausage sandwiches and more (the Amish is a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches).

If you only have a day in Philadelphia, I highly encourage you to make time to visit the Market, and be sure to come on an empty stomach and pockets filled with cash for goodies to take away with you. If you have no plans to visit Philadelphia, I hope you remedy that for a trip to the Market alone is worth the trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

Hopefully these photos will help in convincing you to visit!

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