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5 Historic Relics you can find at Reading Terminal Market Today

Each week, more than 100,000 people visit Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market to buy fresh & prepared foods, flowers and handmade goods from local businesses. It's a favorite spot for Philadelphia natives and tourists, anyone who loves food (isn't that everyone?). Like a modern day supermarket with a lot more character, there's a Reading Terminal Market food to satisfy every taste. With more than 125 years of Reading Terminal Market history, a lot has changed since the market first opened in 1893, and some things have stayed the same. Here's 5 historic things you can find at Reading Terminal Market:

 

Bassetts Ice Cream Reading Terminal Market
Bassett's Ice Cream the only original vendor still operating at Reading Terminal

1) Bassett's Ice Cream 

Not only is Bassett's the Reading Terminal's oldest vendor, they were the very first business to reserve a stall and have been serving the Reading Terminal Market ice cream since opening day in 1893. Bassett's has moved to different locations within the market, but incredibly has used the same marble countertop for over 120 years.

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Reading Terminal Basement Cold Storage

Ice Making Operations in the Reading Terminal Basement 1923

 2) The Basement Cold Storage Room

When the Reading Terminal Market first opened in 1893, one of its most high tech features was the huge, cold storage facility in the basement. Cooled by ammoniated brine running through miles of coils, the basement was filled with cold storage rooms both large and small. Spaces were rented by Reading market vendors and the public, including wealthy families looking for more refrigerator space, breweries for storage of hops and hospitals to preserve medicines. In the early days of Reading Terminal Market, long before the wonders of air conditioning, tours of the space during the summer months were very popular. Though it was incredibly expensive to run, the original cold storage was used until 1960 before being shut down and abandoned for 20 years. After renovations in the 1980's, the basement again became a cold storage space and continues to be used by vendors today.

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 Dinics Reading Terminal Market

Though its been repainted many times, the signage at DiNic's Roast Pork is over 125 years old

3) Original Market Stalls

Amazingly, many of the booths in Reading Terminal Market are original market stalls, with shelving, hooks, and decorative wood pieces, dating back to 1893.  DiNic's Roast Pork in booth 616 (once the location of H. G. Ochs Meats) is a great example of the market's original meat hanging hooks.  All throughout the market floor, the thick, steel support columns throughout the market also original to 1893.

Och's Meats (now DiNic's) in Reading Terminal Market 1947

H.G. Ochs market stall (now DiNic's Roast Pork) in 1947 

H.G. Ochs market stall (now DiNic's Roast Pork) in 1990's 

Drawing of Reading Terminal Market Under Construction 1892 

Drawing of Interior of Reading Terminal Market floor, showing steel columns, 1892

Reading Terminal Support Beams 2019

The same columns today

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4) Reading Terminal Market Food Delivery 

If you visit Reading Terminal Market today, you will see signs throughout advertising free grocery delivery for a 16 miles radius. While home grocery delivery feels like a modern trend, it is actually a return to earlier times. Reading Terminal Market had its first telephone installed in 1902, and by the 1930s did half its business over the phone. The market was famous for its free delivery - both by local delivery boys working within Philadelphia and also the option to have groceries shipped by train along the Pennsylvania and Reading railroad lines, where you could pick up your purchases up at the closest train station.

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Reading Terminal Amish Market Stall

The stall of Reading Terminal Market Amish vendor, Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce. Also notice the original market stall shelving and signage from 1893!

5) Amish Vendors 

The Amish at Reading terminal are one of the most memorable vendors in the market, with their handmade wares and traditional offerings, they seem to fit in perfectly with the original businesses from the late 1800's. But, while the Amish themselves are a group with a long history, they are a more recent addition to the market. The Reading Terminal Market Amish vendors came in 1980, during a rough time in the market's history.  Starting in the early 1950's, the market had been in a decline - rents continued to rise, the building was badly in need of repairs, and more and more vendors were leaving. Following a few years of bad management, the market was at its lowest point in 1977, with 80% percent of the stalls empty.  With low start up fees and lots of empty space to choose from, the Amish took a chance and rented a large market stall space near 12th & Arch Streets. In the next few years, the market saw a revival and not long after Reading Terminal's 100th Birthday, was again full of merchants. Today there are 11 Amish-owned businesses in the market, selling pretzels, meats, cheeses, produce and more.

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If you're a fan of Reading Terminal Market, check out PhilaCarta's Reading Terminal Market Collection featuring favorite Reading Terminal Market food. Have you been to Reading Terminal Market? Tell me your favorite place to eat in the comments! 


1 comment

  • I knew none of these things about the market! Wonderful, informative article.

    Kat

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