Each year in January, the Montgomery County Historical Society holds a day-long conference on various aspects of local history. Upwards of 200 people attend this annual event, which has been held since 2007. This year, I am very honored for the invitation to speak about the history of Reed Brothers Dodge at the History Conference on Saturday, January 26 at 12:45pm.
The PowerPoint presentation will follow the dealerships historic timeline which showcases how Reed Brothers Dodge came into being, and how the company overcame the inevitable changes and challenges throughout almost a decade of being in business. More than 100 photographs will be featured, 60 of them rare, historic images taken by the dealership’s founder, Lewis Reed.
This one-day conference is a place for all people to explore and celebrate the many aspects of our past that shape our community to this day. The conference will be held at the Bioscience Education Center located at 20200 Observation Drive on Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus.
Registration is now open: REGISTER HERE
Looking back at photography from the past is a fascinating experience for me, and with a newfound interest in history, it occurred to me that with the vast number of historical photographs in Lewis Reed’s Collection, that this blog would be a great place to feature a series of Then & Now photography. I started doing this about a year ago as a research tool, now I mostly do it because of my passion for history and fascination with the subject. With that in mind, I will occasionally be spotlighting some “Then & Now” images from his collection that will show photographs of buildings, street scenes, and other historical locales alongside photographs of how they appear today.
Some of the historic locations in this series includes the Smithsonian, Capitol, Union Station, Old Post Office, Library of Congress, Raleigh Hotel, Key Bridge and other important sites in and around the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. There are also photographs of many non-Maryland locations including the historic landmark “Lucy the Elephant”, Gettysburg Battlefield, Mount Vernon, Pennsylvania Monument and United States Regulars Monuments under construction, and Quebec Bridge (the 8th Wonder of the World).
I have no formal history training, just a general interest in local history where I grew up. I will not try to be an historian; I will post one of Lewis Reed’s photographs matched with a corresponding contemporary shot of the same area, and supply a few sentences of context. All of them will in some way will offer a visual history of how things have changed over the years. I look forward to sharing them with you.
About This Collection:
Since I started this blog, I have had the opportunity to look through my grandfather’s extensive collection of photographs from historical locations not only in Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia, but all across the country. The Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960) spotlights the photographs that I have been able to research and identify. There are 100+ blog posts within this section that gives a snapshot of what life was like more than 100 years ago. Highlights include the Black Rock Grist Mill, Rockville Water Tower, C&O Canal, 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, Rockville Fair dirt track races, Trolley Cars, Wright Brothers Airplane, and Quebec Bridge (8th Wonder of the World). Especially stunning are images of the aftermath of the 1936 Gainesville Georgia tornado, one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history. Many photographic images in this collection have never before been seen publicly in print.
Lewis Reed’s photography has appeared as a resource in highly regarded historical publications including, “Montgomery County: Two Centuries of Change” by Jane C. Sween, “Montgomery County (Then & Now)” by Mark Walston, “Montgomery County (MD) Images of America”, by Michael Dwyer, “Rockville: Portrait of a City” by Eileen S. McGuckian, Montgomery Magazine, historic landmarks “Then & Now”, and “Gaithersburg: History of a City”, and by the media, including on the national television show, American Pickers, Science Channel ‘Impossible Engineering’, Maryland Public Television, and on TV’s most watched history series, American Experience on PBS.
Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of digitally manipulated photographs. He was 100 years ahead of his time by creating special effects to images long before the convenience and efficiency of digital photography and Photoshop were ever imaginable. Lewis Reed used a wide variety of effects, including hand-tinting, double exposure, applied handwork, and surrealistic, ghost-like effects in his image-making processes.
Click here to take a look back in time and explore the lives of those who have gone before us.
Note: All images are scanned from prints made from Lewis Reed’s original glass plate negatives. Glass plate negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s. No touch-up or alteration has been done, in order to retain their historical essence.
Early motorists weren’t afraid to drive in the snow simply because they didn’t have 4-wheel drive and electronic assistance; they just got out and did it. In 1920, the year that Lewis Reed took this photo, automobiles were equipped with windshields, but they did not yet have windows—you know, those pieces of glass above the doors of the car that keep stuff out. So snow removal was a back-breaking exterior and interior job. The radiator badge on the front of the car in this phto identifies it as a Hudson. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1921.
In the spirit of yesterday’s snow, here is a photo that gives a good look at how Reed Brothers Dodge got its new model cars from the rail yard back to Rockville — they drove them — caravan-style through the snow. These new cars all with dealer license plates, are stopped along a snowbound Goshen Road in rural Gaithersburg on their way back to the dealership.
Who would dare go out in these conditions today without an AWD SUV and heated seats?
Today marks the birthday of my late father, Ernest Lee Gartner. If he were still around he would be 98 years old today. Lee Gartner was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland on January 12, 1921. He was a young 88 years old and worked up until just two weeks before he died. Ernest Lee Gartner, who married Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, joined Reed Brothers Dodge in 1949.
When Lewis Reed passed away on January 28, 1967, my dad continued the business as Dealer Principal making Reed Brothers Dodge a second generation dealer. Representing the 2nd generation, he took on a whole new set of challenges. When the state widened the roads in 1970, he purchased 4.37 acres of land from Eugene Casey and relocated Reed Brothers Dodge from its original location at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike to a new state-of-the-art showroom and Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep service complex on Route 355 at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland.
In comparison to Lewis Reed, whose dealership survived through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II, Lee Gartner successfully navigated Reed Brothers Dodge through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler, and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. He applied his 30+ years experience with Reed Brothers to meet the challenges of gasoline shortages, high interest rates, severe inflation, and weakening consumer confidence which drove Chrysler into financial crisis. This survival is testimony that he not only conquered setbacks, but often rebounded to reach new levels of success. These are pretty remarkable things.
My dad succumbed to metastatic melanoma on June 13, 2009, just four days after the loss of the family’s Dodge franchise. Though he later ceded control to his sons, he rarely missed a day of work. Until his untimely death, he was a fixture at the dealership and could be seen around just about every day watering flowers, reading his newspaper, walking through the shop, and greeting friends and customers in the showroom. The word “retirement” was not in his vocabulary. He showed no signs of stepping away from the dealership that he helped build for more than 60 years. He remained Chairman of the Board until his death.
I will always remember my dad as a successful businessman whose persistent energy was always there for family first, but in equal measure for the public he served. He was smart and also honest and dependable – characteristics that kept Reed Brothers Dodge at the pinnacle of auto dealerships throughout his career.
I never had a chance to tell my dad how much I admired him, but I remain proud of him and his accomplishments. Lee Gartner continued what Lewis Reed built from the ground up and helped make Reed Brothers Dodge into a successful family business that lasted almost a century.
My dad set a standard of excellence and provided a set of values for my life that I still follow today. Dad, this is for you.. Happy Birthday!
Reed Brothers Dodge and the surrounding area sure has changed a lot in its almost century-long history. You might not realize how much things have changed until you look back and see what it looked like in the past. For this post, I have used one of Lewis Reed’s original photographs for “then” and a Google Maps street view image from today for “now”.
THEN: The photo below is the Rockville Garage located at its original location at the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. In 1917, Reed Brothers became an authorized Texaco Filling Station and sold Texaco gasoline from a single pump. To the right is a Texaco Gasoline Filling Station sign. One very tall Texaco branded fuel pump can be seen in this photo along with two Texaco Petroleum refueling trucks. Parked in front is a line-up of some very early Dodge Brothers Motor Cars.
Note the unpaved dirt road on Rockville Pike and trolley tracks running past the dealership. From 1900-1935, the trolley cars went past Reed Brothers Dodge as they traveled up Rockville Pike. Major stops along the line included Georgetown, Alta Vista, Bethesda, Montrose, Halpine, the Fairgrounds, Courthouse Square, and Chestnut Lodge.
NOW: The “now” photo is a google maps image of the same location… 102 years later. The dealership’s location today is now known as Veterans Park. In the 1970s the site was known as the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, and later in 1988, it was permanently rededicated as Veterans Park. In the late 1960s, the state of Maryland acquired the land to widen 355 and donated the remaining sliver to the City. The state named the connector street behind the dealership’s location “Dodge Street” because Reed Brothers Dodge dealership was located there for more than 50 years. New pavement has long since replaced the trolley tracks on Rockville Pike in this photo.
This fun and interesting photograph taken by Lewis Reed is one of my favorites. The photo shows William Beall in his 1915 Pullman in front of old St Mary’s Church and his younger brother Vernon on horseback “towing” him to Reed Brothers. The photo was taken from in front of Reed Brothers Dodge which was directly across the street from St Mary’s Church.
Several of the Beall family were original employees at Reed Brothers, including: Leonard Beall (paint/auto body shop), Otis Beall, Walter (Bud) Beall, and Mary Anna (Slater) Beall (Bookkeeper). Bud and Otis Beall were two of Reed Brothers’ original Gulf Gasoline Station attendants.
Looking at old photographs is like peering through an open window back into history. Not only do they give you a sense of wonder from traveling back in time, but also a staggering feeling of awe from seeing just how much things have changed. For this post, I have used one of Lewis Reed’s original photographs for “then” and a Google stock image for “now”.
Wilson Bridge (THEN): Built in 1819, this five arch structure named for nearby village was the first stone bridge built by Washington County. Erected by Silas Harry at cost of $12,000, it was a major improvement to the road system between Baltimore and Cumberland, providing continuous smooth surface from eastern seaboard to western wilderness. Wilson Bridge carried traffic until seriously damaged by storm flood in 1972. It was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Wilson Bridge (NOW): The bridge was beautifully restored in 1984 by LeRoy E. Myers. The bridge is one of numerous still standing stone bridges in central and western Maryland.