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From Independence Mall to City Hall

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During the eighteenth century, the portion of Market Street west of 6th Street was largely residential with individual homes, boardinghouses, and small hotels vying for space. In the nineteenth century, as the city grew, the central markets extended west, eventually reaching as far as 11th Street. With the development of horsecar trolleys, every route attempted to connect to the markets, congesting the street to the point that it was necessary to move the markets to buildings along the street. The Reading Terminal Market (see PH45) is the descendent of those original High Street markets, while the department stores and the Gallery maintain the retail focus of the street as an adjunct to the centralizing force of transit. Although the post office and the office towers to the west reflect the concentration of finance and business of the modern downtown, most of Market Street between the Mall and City Hall was the domain of department stores. Before the Great Depression, there were a baker's dozen department stores along the street, including names long passed from memory such as Frank and Seder's, Hood and Bonbright's, Blauner's, Snellenberg's, Haines's, Bergs's, Blum's, Stern's, Lit's (PH43), Gimbel's, York's, as well as the sole surviving landmark department store, Wanamaker's, now housing Macy's (PH47), while the Strawbridge and Clothier building at 8th and Market will be an office building—and possibly a casino. The various nationalities reflected in the names of the stores included most of the city's population, making Market Street a destination for all. With palatial movie theaters such as the demolished Earle at 11th Street (1925, Hoffman and Henon ), Market Street remained the core of the city's identity until after World War II. Shopping centers that more effectively linked to the regional highway system of the postwar years and catalog retail diminished the city markets and by the 1960s had considerably reduced Market Street's draw. As the automobile has become the movement system of choice, shopping has moved to new centers that connect to the car—at King of Prussia Mall (MO15), where the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-276), and U.S. 202 intersect, and in the Franklin Mills, between I-95 and the turnpike on the northeast side of the city. West of Independence Mall, there are few if any original landmarks from the old city, but several reconstructions such as the bicentennial re-creation of the Graff house (700 Market Street) recall the westward extension of the Revolutionary city.

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas

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