If you love handmade goods, locally grown produce, and supporting independent businesses, Washington DC’s Eastern Market is more than just a shopping destination, it’s heaven on Earth.
A unique combination of crafts market, farmer’s market, Victorian-era food stall, and community arts center, Eastern Market is also the unofficial heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s also a major tourist attraction with it’s own Metro stop, and a source of pride for the entire city.
The history of Eastern Market goes all the way back to the original plans for Washington, DC drafted by Pierre L’Enfant, and an initiative from the Jefferson Administration to create and maintain a series of markets throughout the city. While its cousins in other parts of the city have long since been swallowed up by development, Eastern Market has prevailed. Numerous events have challenged the Market’s survival, not the least of which was a devastating fire in 2007, which wiped out the Market’s historic South Hall.
The fire completely destroyed more than a dozen independent bakeries, butchers, and food stalls that were housed in the 134-year-old South Hall. However, ninety percent of the art and craft vendors were unaffected, and the market was open as usual the following weekend. Temporary stalls for the displaced food vendors were in place within six months, and the market has flourished ever since.
The renovated South Hall re-opened in June of 2009 with all of its original vendors, including the legendary Market Lunch. Ask any Capitol Hill resident or Eastern Market regular, and they will give you an earful about the culinary bliss that is Market Lunch, especially the crab cake sandwiches and the blueberry pancakes.
Today the Market features more than 120 exhibitors, selling a huge variety of handcrafted goods, antiques, fine art and crafts, locally grown produce, and fresh flowers. Visitors love Eastern Market because it truly is one-stop shopping, but not in a soulless, strip-mall kind of a way. Where else can you pick up handcrafted goods like soap, ceramics and clothing, fresh cut flowers, original artwork, and locally-grown, organic fruit all at the same time?
The Eastern Market complex also includes the North Hall, a community arts center that houses permanent installations from local artists, musical performances and other neighborhood events.
Eastern Market is located at 7th Street and North Carolina Avenue SE, one block from the Eastern Market Metro. The South Hall is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and the Arts & Crafts Market, Flea Market, and Farmers’ Market are open Saturdays and Sundays.