Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Eastern Market, South Hall. A fire destroyed the interior,
but the city is rebuilding and will reopen soon.

In an era of big box grocery retailers and high-end gourmet shops, one of D.C.'s finest culinary staples remains Eastern Market. The oldest, continuously operating market in Washington, D.C., Eastern Market is located on Capitol Hill and is an icon of constancy in a city where little remains the same for five minutes at a time.

Opened in 1873, the market building was one of several markets and buildings designed by architect Adolph Cluss. Today, it is the only market building left and still in operation in the city. Other markets exist, but not in buildings as special as this one. In 2007, an electrical short in the century-old wiring sparked a devastating fire that gutted the interior of the market. For a few tense days, residents around Capitol Hill and consumers of Eastern Market vendors and wares from across the city feared the building would be condemned and razed. Fortunately, public opinion, outcry, and appreciation prevailed and the city committed to rebuild.

Tight shot of the temporary market hall built by the city while
restoration and reconstruction work are ongoing on the South Hall.

Currently, the vendors of the South Hall are in a temporary structure across the street called the East Hall. The farmers who ply their produce still set-up on the sidewalk outside the original building, while reconstruction goes on inside. The lines for blueberry pancakes at Market Lunch are still many minutes long and out the door on Saturday mornings. Any fear that the Eastern Market would fade into extinction like its counterparts across the city have been squelched and the market is well on its way to returning to iconographic status and bustle in the very near future.

Left to right: Tile pattern outside Ben & Jerry's;
beautiful hydrangeas around the patio of an outdoor cafe;
and a lovely rose in bloom in the garden of one of the many historic homes in the area.

When you visit D.C., plan to have breakfast at the market on a Saturday. It'll be the best D.C. buzz and neighborhood energy you'll get anywhere! In addition to the market, the surrounding blocks feature great old homes, quirky businesses, and a few unique architectural features like the art deco building that houses the bakery and coffee shop Bread & Chocolate.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 6/08


Dusty Lens said...

Terrible fire tragedy. Happy it will be rebuilt. We need to keep our historic places intact. I find I enjoy these old shops more than the shiney new places.

D.C. Confidential said...

Rob: What makes places like this so special is, they aren't Generica. There's so little anymore that's unique in American retail shopping, when you have/find a gem like this, you want to hold onto it. That's what I love about the Eastern Market!

Cowbark said...

I was just there this weekend and had lunch at Bread & Chocolate Saturday!

You're so right about "generica" - that's exactly why I love walking around that neighborhood and checking out all the houses and gardens...and all the crafts and the flea market and the delicious food....

D.C. Confidential said...

Cowbark: You were in town?! Actually, I think I remember you saying you were going to be here. We could've had a "when bloggers meet" experience! Yes, you're right about the Eastern Market: it's a place to love!

The Artful Eye said...

I love, love love the Eastern Market. I was horrified when I learned about the fire. I can spend hours there perusing the food and hand crafted goodies, also love the neighborhood and chatting with the vendors.

D.C. Confidential said...

Andrea: When I posted this, I had you in mind. I knew you'd enjoy it!