The Middle Years
The Depression years of the 1930s were difficult for the railroad and the Market alike, but both institutions managed to struggle through the hard times. By the end of the decade, in fact, 10 of the 64 merchants in the Market were among the original standholders from 1892.
During World War II, the Market became a mecca for Philadelphians seeking relief from the rigors of rationing. Even with the war on, the vendors managed to provide a surprising variety of scarce victuals. Despite labor shortages and other problems brought on by the war, 97 percent of the stalls were occupied even in 1944, the penultimate year of the conflict.
In the 1960s the Reading fell under the same economic pall that afflicted most of the other railroads of the Northeast, and the Market got scant attention from the railroad. The great cold-storage facility at the Market was shut down and dismantled, forcing standholders to provide their own walk-in refrigeration facilities.
A severe cash shortage and declining freight and passenger traffic finally forced the railroad company into bankruptcy in 1971, after which the Market suffered from almost total inattention from upstairs.
In 1976, the Reading ceased to exist as a railroad corporation. But a new Reading Company continued functioning, essentially as a real estate business, with Reading Terminal and the Market as one of its prime assets. Various ideas were discussed by the bankrupt company to dispose of the Market so that it would be easier to sell the Terminal building. Business in what had become a shabby mercantile atmosphere rapidly dwindled.
Finally, in the 1980s the Reading Company devoted renewed attention to the Market and slowly but steadily the dismal slide ended and, in fact, the Market began a dramatic turnaround.