City Cast

From the Archives: Eastern Market Turns 150

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on November 14
Eastern Market 1933.

Eastern Market 1933. (Boucher, Jack E/Library of Congress)

City Cast

Eastern Market Turns 150. Here’s How To Celebrate


Eastern Market turned 150 years old on Sunday. That’s older than the telephone, ketchup, and the other state of Washington. It was one of three public marketplaces that L’Enfant planned for D.C., including Western Market and Central Market. And it opened in 1873, after being designed by the same architect who designed the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.

It thrived until the second half of the 20th century, when the invention of the refrigerator meant customers could keep meats and produce far longer, requiring fewer market visits. In addition, the rise of modern grocery stores eclipsed the market in terms of convenience. By 1958, only two of the typical 22 vendors remained.

Inside Eastern Market in 1933.

Inside Eastern Market in 1933. (Boucher, Jack E/Library of Congress)

But as other downtown markets closed in the ‘60s, Eastern Market was rejuvenated with new vendors and customers and has remained popular till today.  It’s one of the few historic public market buildings left in D.C. and the only one that’s still a public market.

Nowadays, the hall is filled with florists, butchers, delis, and breakfast spots (hello, Market Lunch’s buckwheat pancakes). It also has a lot of Asian grocery providers (critical since D.C. is an H Mart desert 😭) and food stalls.

A lot of vendors are Filipino and often carry Filipino ingredients and meats. For my fellow Filipinos/home cooks who can’t get out to NoVa, Eastern Market is a great and convenient stop!Reader Kiana B.

Want to make a whole day of it? Check out more suggestions on our City Cast DC episode!

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