Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

Reading Terminal clock
Reading Terminal clock on Market Street, Philadelphia. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.

On Wednesday January 2, 2013, I revisited Philadelphia’s old Reading Terminal with my brother Sean and Michael Scherer. It was still a functioning passenger terminal when I first visited this iconic railroad facility in the late 1970s with my family. In 2007, I covered its history in my book Railroads of Pennsylvania. Here’s an excerpt of my text:

In the 1890s, Philadelphia & Reading invested its anthracite wealth in construction of one of Pennsylvania’s most ornately decorated company headquarters and passenger terminals. Facing Philadelphia’s Market Street, one of downtown’s main thoroughfares, Reading Terminal represented an ostentatious display of success, but one that now has benefited citizens and visitors to Philadelphia for more than a century.Like many large railway terminals of its time, Reading Terminal followed the architectural pattern established in Britain, perfected at London’s St. Pancras station. This pattern features two distinct structures for the head house and train shed. The Reading station architect, F. H. Kimball, designed the head house to rise nine stories above the street and its façade is made of pink and white granite, decorated with terra cotta trimmings. Behind the head house is the functional part of the station, an enormous balloon-style train shed—the last surviving North American example—designed and built by Philadelphia’s Wilson Brothers.  The terminal closed as a result of consolidation of Philadelphia’s suburban services on November 6, 1984. Its modern underground replacement­—SEPTA’s Market East Station—is nearby.

Philadelphia & Reading’s crown jewel was its immense, opulent railroad terminal and office building on Market Street in Philadelphia. Its corporate imperialism was spelled out in an Italian Renaissance revival style, with this corner office specially designed for the president of the company. Exposed with a Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens.
Reading Terminal Market's logo reflects that of the old Reading Company, which like many coal hauling railroads symbolically used the diamond (inferring black diamonds)
Reading Terminal Market’s logo reflects that of the old Reading Company— like many coal hauling railroads symbolically used the diamond (inferring black diamonds). Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
This large mural inside Reading Terminal conveys a sense of what the shed was like in the late 1930s. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
It has been nearly three decades since the last train departed the shed at Reading Terminal. Today the classic balloon shed covers part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Lumix LX3 photo.

Designed by Philadelphia’s Wilson Brothers and built by Charles McCall, Reading Terminal’s vast balloon shed is the last surviving example of its type in the United States.


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One comment on “Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Revisited

  1. Brian Jennison on said:

    It’s neat that the city saved this building, and it’s a nice example of adaptive reuse.

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