Two years ago a great historical landmark in DC nearly burned to the ground. I remember waking up and hearing the news that Eastern Market was severely damaged by an early-morning fire. I was incredibly upset. For the past five years I have worked around the corner from Eastern Market. I went grocery shopping there during the week, enjoyed cheap deli sandwiches for lunch, and crabcakes from Market Lunch. Eastern Market, with its fresh produce outside and specialized vendors inside, is a foodie’s dream come true. That is why it was so upsetting when it caught fire. Besides the jobs and businesses that were lost, I felt that a community gathering spot was lost as well.
That is why I was thrilled when the community⎯Mayor Fenty included⎯rallied around Eastern Market and vowed to rebuild it. A temporary market was set up in an elementary school parking lot across the street. A “Rebuild Eastern Market” Facebook site was established. And I quickly started to see the “Rebuild” t-shirts all over town. It was nice. In this cynical age, in this political town, it was comforting to see people coming together to support an old-school establishment with so much history.
This weekend the time finally arrived to claim “Mission Accomplished!” In the spot of the original South Hall, Eastern Market reopened for business. Hundreds (thousands?) of people filled the Hall, taking in the new AC system, fresh coats of paint, and various improvements. Despite the wicked heat, everyone was smiling and laughing. They seemed to share the joy I felt that this landmark was back in action. Jazz and Dixie Land music filled the air, the smell of peaches and half smokes wafted around, and children in face paint snaked through the crowd laughing. It was a real celebration of community and I was so happy to take part in it!