Lost and Found

Lost and Found features brief profiles of historic landmarks and structures, one lost and one saved.


The Berks County seat of Read­ing, surrounded by fertile countryside punctuated by numerous farms, was once home to eight market houses. Erected by newspaper publisher Francis B. Shalters in 1870, the South Reading Market House was, despite years of deferred maintenance, one of the community’s most recognized and enduring buildings. Among the grand edifice’s more unusual features was a portico supported by cast iron columns. (The pillars originally supported a market pavilion built in 1846 on Reading’s Penn Square.) In mid-May, just two weeks before it was to be sold at public auction – and rehabilitated by a new owner, city officials hoped – the South Reading Market House was destroyed by fire. The inferno surged through the landmark and it collapsed in ten minutes. Authorities confirmed the cause of the conflagration was arson.



A century and a half ago, the city of Reading was divided into five wards, designated as South-West, South-East, North­-East, North-West, and Spruce. The market building erected in 1874 at the corner of North Ninth and But­tonwood Streets became known as the North-East Market House. Be­fore dawn on Wednesdays and Saturdays, farmers from surrounding Berks County – most of them Pennsylvania German – traveled to Reading’s market houses where they sold produce, livestock, and various merchandise. The front and rear facades of the commodious North-East Market House are nearly identical and both can be considered main entrances. Built of brick, the building now houses a wholesale food business. In spite of alterations through the years, the market re­tains its late nineteenth century appearance, dominated by a clerestory that allows natural light into the vendor stalls beneath it.