Eastern Market in Washington, DC

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This is a 3:34 excerpt from AMERICAN MOSAIC, August 20, 2009.

Eastern Market in Washington, D.C., is the oldest continually operated fresh food public market in the nation's capital. Its long history almost came to an end two years ago when a major fire burned its South Hall building. Shirley Griffith reports on the newly rebuilt market.Eastern Market was a beautiful, modern building when it was completed in eighteen seventy-three. It had a high, sharply angled ceiling and many windows lining the walls of its one long, narrow room. These features permitted as much air flow and natural light as possible.

The building was called South Hall. Meat, fish, baked goods and fresh flowers were sold inside. Farmers sold fruits and vegetables outside under a permanent roof. The public market quickly became popular and welcomed shoppers for more than one hundred thirty years. Then on April thirtieth, two thousand seven, a huge fire of unknown cause almost completely destroyed South Hall. Many sellers and buyers wondered if this would end the historic market.

Thomas Calomiris owns Thomas Calomiris and Sons in South Hall. The Greek food business has been in his family for more than sixty years. He remembers getting news of the fire.

THOMAS CALOMIRIS: "Well, our first thought was where we're gonna' work. How we're gonna' get a job. So either, we would have to move, open somewhere else. That's what we were thinking. We thought that that would be it."

But the day after the fire, the mayor of the District of Columbia, Adrian Fenty, took action. He promised to restore South Hall to "its architectural and historical splendor."

The fourteen South Hall business owners moved to a temporary shelter across the street. The farmers market also continued operations.

Two years later, on June twenty-sixth, the new Eastern Market re-opened. Natural light floods in from above where skylights were added along the roofline. An air conditioning system now keeps the Hall cool. And in the winter a heating system will make it warm. There is also a new moveable stage and theater lighting for performances.

The Eastern Market project cost about twenty-two million dollars. Tom Calomiris thinks it was worth it. Business is good he says.

THOMAS CALOMIRIS: "Hey, it's been very good. We're very pleased. So, you know, we're very happy with the work they did. You know, it's a lot nicer and cleaner."

This was written by June Simms and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer.