Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading Terminal

Although it no longer serves as a railroad station, Reading Terminal survives today as the headhouse and Market Street entrance for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as well as a shared entrance to Market East Station, which replaced the Reading Terminal as an active regional rail terminal in 1984.

Reading Terminal Headhouse in the 1950s

The headhouse was designed by Francis H. Kimball and the train shed was designed by Wilson Brothers & Company in 1891 and built in 1893. Ironically demolition was partially staved off by Edmund Bacon, the former city planner notorious for demolishing historic landmarks - including Broad Street Station - and responsible for much of Center City's regretful mid-century "modernization".

Cafe and Bar inside Reading Terminal - 1980s

The new Market East Station was intended to be a sleek replacement for the elevated viaducts that extended from Arch Street northward, by placing the rail lines underground. Although this was intended to clean up the neighborhoods north of Reading Terminal by taking them out of the shadows of the train tracks, the underground lines left Chinatown and the former Furnished Room District littered with surface parking lots that have yet to be redeveloped.

Market East Regional Rail entrance to Reading Terminal prior to relocation.

The Reading Terminal viaduct was demolished from Arch Street for the Pennsylvania Convention Center but still stands at Vine Street, snaking its way through Callowhill towards Northern Liberties. Covered in weeds, the viaduct has received little attention from both preservationists or those interested in demolishing the structure for redevelopment. A few have suggested converting it into a jogging trail similar to New York City's High Line, unfortunately the Reading Viaduct doesn't really go anywhere or adjoin any successful properties. Some have even suggested turning it into a bus or rail line conveniently attaching Center City to the Art Museum, the Zoo, and Fairmount Park.

A regional rail train leaves Reading Terminal on the Reading Viaduct in the 1980s

Reading Terminal still houses a public market, originally established at 12th and Market in 1859 as Franklin Market and Farmer's Market. When the terminal was built, these markets were consolidated as Reading Terminal Market in 1893. Reading Terminal Market still thrives today as one of the nation's oldest (if not the oldest) farmer's markets.

Reading Terminal Headhouse today at 12th and Market

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