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The Reading Terminal Market can trace its origins to early Philadelphia when farmers sold their produce in the middle of East Market Street. By 1857, the street market was closed by the city out of concern for unsanitary conditions, and a number of indoor markets were built, one at the present site. In 1889, the Reading Railroad reached an agreement to build its terminal on the site with provision for the market under its viaduct and immense train shed. The market included a large refrigerated section in the basement---a remarkable feature of the time.
Over the years, a number of changes have taken place. The Reading Terminal ceased to serve trains in 1984 when a station and underground train tunnel were constructed, and the second floor train station became the grand ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. There has been a shift in the type of vendors, with a decrease in farmers' market goods and an increase in restaurant stalls selling an amazing assortment of prepared foods. One modernization regreted by some was the replacement of the curious century-old fixtures in the restrooms.
At present, one will find a bustling market in an antique setting selling a variety of products, some to be eaten on the spot. Some of the long- time tenants are locally famous vendors of ice cream, clam chowder, etc. Of particular interest to visitors are the Amish and Mennonite vendors, but be warned that they do not work on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays.