Eastern Market

225 7th Street, S.E.
Washington, DC

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

It's common to rub shoulders with national politicians when shopping at this historic 16,500 square-foot market hall.

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Why It Works

The market is actually a series of spaces: a large indoor brick hall has traditional market merchants, many of whom have been there for generations, and an eating area; a second indoor section added in 1906, now housing an art gallery; and on weekends, a busy craft market in the plaza in front of the market. Additionally, a long shed roof along the street shelters farmers who set up on Saturdays offering fresh produce and flowers. Small shops, a cafe, and a bookstore on the same street reinforce the market as a destination.

The historic building itself seems to be an unchanged constant, even as gentrification continues its march across the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Good-quality produce, cheese, bakery items, seafood, meats (from pigs' feet to steaks) and more are available daily to all comers.

What Makes Eastern Market a Great Place?

The plaza in front of the market draws people in; adding to the dynamics is an antique and flea market located in a schoolyard across the street. It's also a block from a metro stop ("Eastern Market" on the blue or yellow lines) and has great proximity to Capitol Hill.

Part of the reason for the market's success is that it seems to have hardly changed since its opening in 1873: inside, the stalls, equipment, and vendors seem to have been there as long as the buckled brick sidewalk out front.

Traditional market merchants, along with an art gallery, a weekend craft market in the plaza in front of the market. Along the street, a shed houses farmers who set up on Saturdays to sell fresh produce and flowers.

The market is always a great hodge-podge of people where it's common to rub shoulders with local and national politicians shopping side by side with the local folks. On Saturday mornings, you'll see a long line of hungry customers waiting for breakfast: a "plate of blues" or blueberry pancakes comes from one of the more popular stalls.

History & Background

Eastern Market was designed by Adolph Cluss, the architect of the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building, and opened for business in 1873. At that time, there were a series of markets serving the growing populace in the capitol city, but today Eastern Market is the only remaining market dating from this period.

The market is in need of physical renovation, which has been discussed for decades. There always seems to be another market committee investigating the future of the institution, but little seems to come out of these well-intentioned efforts. This does not seem to be entirely a bad thing, however.

Contact Info:

Eastern Market Corporation, a for profit corporation controlled by merchants.

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