1873, the year that Pierre L’Enfant graced the Capitol Hill neighborhood with its very own local, public market. Functionally, Eastern Market has served that purpose well by being the nexus between vendors and buyers – where a person who needs a tomato can buy a fresh, locally grown tomato. Symbolically, Eastern Market is much more. It is the “town center” of Capitol Hill.
Barry Margeson has been managing Eastern Market for the DC Department of General Services for more than ten years, and arguably knows more abut the market than anyone else. After chatting with him, it’s clear that even a decade later he doesn’t think the market has lost even an ounce of its magic.
Barry puts it simply, “You could ask 1,000 neighbors what they love most about Eastern Market and from each neighbor you would get a completely different thing.”
What do you love most about Capitol Hill and this neighborhood?
I love the people, and I love the diversity of the people at Eastern Market. In terms of work types, we have merchants who sell the product inside the market, we have vendors who are outside the market, among the vendors there are farmers, among the farmers there are folks from West Virginia, there are Mennonites, and Amish folks. Then we have artists and crafters…prepared food sellers who arrive onsite with their product raw and cook it over the course of the day.
All of these different people are the people who work at Eastern Market. Such an amazing variety and I feel so lucky to be able to know all these people. Then in addition to that you have all the neighbors around Eastern Market.
Do you do your grocery shopping at the market?
Oh, tons! I love soft shell crabs, which I get from Southern Maryland Seafood, and I like bluefish which I get there too when it’s in season. When I want to splurge, I get a big T-bone steak…from Union Meat or Canales’ and they will both cut them to order. I like rugelach (delicious swirled pastry) from Fine Sweet Shoppe. I like the Cuban sandwiches down at the deli. That gives you an idea of a few of my favorites.
“Oh my god, the cheeses! If you get a cheese plate at Bower’s Fancy Dairy, you’ve never seen anything like it in your life.”– Barry Margeson
What’s one place in the neighborhood most people don’t know about?
I love the back alleys of Capitol Hill. Just right, one block this way is one that I adore.
When I lived in Italy, there was this whole small section of Milan that was made for railroad workers and they are all brightly colored houses that are all small scale. Then in this big city all of a sudden, you’re like, “Where am I?” That’s how these back alleys feel to me. They feel a lot like that, and I love them.
What makes your house a home?
I have open houses at my place and I invite friends over for potlucks. We do the same thing here. We have potlucks at Eastern Market where all the neighbors, and all the vendors, and all the merchants are invited…A lot of communication and sharing and openness.
Listen to hear more of Barry Margeson’s Capitol Hill story.
Customer Requirements During COVID-19
To ensure the safety of all customers as well as Eastern Market employees and staff, customers are required to wear a face covering while shopping and maintain six feet of distance from each person who is not part of their household. Customers are asked not to eat any food purchased at the market while visiting. For additional safety, customers are asked to keep shopping time to 30 minutes, leave children, senior family members and pets at home, and consider calling in orders for take-out.
FIND EASTERN MARKET
225 Seventh Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
As of April 13, 2020, Eastern Market indoor merchants have new hours:
TUESDAY – SUNDAY 9:00AM – 5:00PM
FARMER’S MARKET HOURS
TUESDAY 12:00 – 4:00PM
SATURDAY & SUNDAY 9:00AM – 1:00PM
Check the website for most up-to-date information.