We’re all familiar with supermarkets. In fact, it’s hard to imagine life without them. However, for most of our civilized existence, farmers, craftsmen, and other merchants would gather regularly at a local market to sell their produce, meats, and wares to the community.
In the late 1700’s, when Reading was a much newer and smaller town, 2 large pavilions were erected on Penn Street, at Penn Square, to accommodate area merchants. As Reading grew, there was an increased need for neighborhood markets and by the early 1870’s, the pavilions were torn down.
Some of the neighborhood market buildings erected during this time were impressive and very ornate. These included: Crystal Palace Market on Penn Street; Northeast Market House at 9th and Buttonwood Streets; Market House at 10th and Windsor; South Reading Market House, which burned to the ground in 2005 after standing for 135 years.
Even with the evolution of supermarkets, farmers’ markets are still very popular for fresh, locally grown meat and produce. Current indoor examples are Leesport Farmers Market north of Reading; Shillington Farmers Market; Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Muhlenberg Township. In addition to the indoor markets, there are many area farmers who set up their own small markets along the roadside to sell their produce when it’s in season. And Downtown we have the seasonal Penn Street Market.
Adapted from Berks History Center Blog post, Farm-Fresh: Farmers’ Market are a Berks County Foodway Tradition
By Floyd N. Turner II, Board President, Berks History Center