The Pennsylvania Convention Center may have opened its doors in 1993, but its origins go back to the 1980's. Civic leaders felt the city had outgrown its convention space in West Philadelphia (known as the Philadelphia Convention Hall, famed for hosting the Beatles, the Pope and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others), and that a new, larger site was needed to serve the growing conference industry.
Seeking a new downtown location, the vast unused Reading Railroad Terminal seemed an obvious answer. Built in 1893, it was a monument to the extraordinary railroad wealth of the time, designed to bring trains into a spectacular train shed with a single span arched roof. Underneath, the city's oldest outdoor market (now Reading Terminal Market) had been transformed into an interior structure, containing bustling stalls serving thousands of customers.
After an underground rail link was built in 1984, the Terminal was rendered obsolete and was closed in 1985. When it was proposed as the site for the new Pennsylvania Convention Center, city architects took great pains to preserve its extraordinary historical elements. The striking train shed arch stayed, and the headhouse (the passenger station and company headquarters) was incorporated into the Center and the attached Marriott Hotel.
Since its opening, the Pennsylvania Convention Center has become a significant landmark in downtown Philadelphia, drawing attendees from all over the country and around the world. The mammoth expansion, covering four city blocks, opened in March 2011.