New Blog Feature: Then & Now

Then & Now

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.


Reed Photo Collection (1898-1960)

Lewis Reed Photos

Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge, was a well-known photographer in Montgomery County. Many of his photographs are now part of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Historical Society photo archives. He even developed his own photographs. He had a darkroom in his house —  in the kitchen, to be exact — and worked at night to develop the negatives.

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 in highly regarded history books such as, “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, and “Gaithersburg: History of a City”. His photographs have been featured in the Norris-Banonis Automotive Wall Calendar, on the national television show, American Pickers, and on television’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.

Then & Now: Library of Congress

You might not realize how much Washington DC has changed until you look back and see what it looked like in the past. In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”.

Library of Congress (THEN): The Library of Congress was relocated to Washington, DC, in 1800, having previously been housed in New York and Philadelphia, which had each served as temporary capitals of the early United States of America. It is the research library serving the U.S. Congress as well as the national library of the United States, and it holds over 23 million volumes in its collection, making it the world’s largest library. The structure as it stands today was erected between 1888 and 1894, following the 1851 fire that destroyed 35,000 of the Library’s books (two-thirds of its holdings at that time), including much of Thomas Jefferson’s donated collection.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1910

Library of Congress (NOW): The same view 108 years later. Now, the Library of Congress is one of the largest and best-equipped libraries in the world. It houses approximately 90 million items on 540 miles of shelves.  The Library of Congress is physically housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill and a conservation center in rural Virginia. The Library’s Capitol Hill buildings are all connected by underground passageways, so that a library user need pass through security only once in a single visit.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress today

Source: Wikipedia

Got Milk? Mrs Phillip Reed Endorses Cream Top Milk in This 1931 Ad

They say that the cream always rises to the top. What rose to the top of my internet search this week was this advertisement of cream top milk endorsed by Mrs Phillip Reed (Mary Zelda Reed) of Rockville. Phillip Reed was a brother of Lewis Reed and a part of the dealership’s first work force. Phillip came to work for the dealership as a mechanic in 1916. Characteristic is this compliment from Mrs. Phillip Reed of Rockville, MD:

I wish to tell you that I like your ‘Cream Top’ Milk better than any I have ever bought in the eleven years that I have been buying milk … The Cream whips wonderfully.

Cream top milk ad 1930

The Sunday Star, Washington D.C. March 8, 1931

The Chevy Chase Dairy resulted from the merger of two companies. Brothers George and Joseph Wise started Chevy Chase Dairy in 1885. The Dairy was utilized to supply milk to the Chevy Chase/Bethesda, Maryland and the Washington DC area with fresh milk. The dairy was started by H. G. Carroll who owned the farm in 1897. Sometime around 1913-1915 he sold the dairy to George, Joseph and Raymond Wise who added the “Wise Brothers” to the Chevy Chase Farm name. There first retail location in the District was at 3306 P Street NW. They later moved to 3206 N Street NW (adjacent to Martin’s Tavern which fronts Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown) where it remained until it was sold to National Dairy Products in January 1931.

Chevy Chase Dairy delivery wagons, circa 1918-28.

Chevy Chase Dairy delivery wagons, circa 1918-28. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION)

The Chestnut Farms, Chevy Chase Dairy may be gone, but an unexpected descendant remains. Dairies used to sponsor all sorts of extracurricular activities for employees, from baseball teams to orchestras. Chestnut Farms, Chevy Chase Dairy had a brass band. In 1938, the band played in the stands of Griffith Stadium during a football game. The owner of the team liked the idea of entertaining the fans so much that he signed them up to play regularly. The owner was George Preston Marshall, the team was the Redskins and the band became the Redskins Marching Band.

Source: The Washington Post

Then & Now: Clinton Zion AME Church, Rockville

In 1867, several of Rockville’s African American families left Jerusalem Methodist Episcopal Church to start the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church under the leadership of Reverend Charles Pipkins. In 1890, Pipkins and his congregation cut timbers and erected. a frame church on Middle Lane. Taken approximately 100 years apart, these photos show the Clinton Zion A.M.E. Church then and now.

Clinton Zion A.M.E. Church (THEN): In 1904, the congregation moved to the brick church seen in this black & white photograph located on North Washington Street and today’s Beall Avenue. The church was named Clinton A.M.E. Zion in honor of Reverend George Wylie Clinton (1859-1921), a prominent member and editor of the church’s periodical, Star of Zion.

Zion A.M.E. Church, Rockville, Md

Zion A.M.E. Church, Rockville, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1912.

Clinton Zion A.M.E. Church (NOW): The congregation sold the brick church in 1955 to make way for a shopping center, dedicating their present church on Elizabeth Avenue in Lincoln Park in the fall of 1956. The growth of Clinton was the impetus for the most recent expansion effort. Construction of the new sanctuary began in 1989 and the newly renovated edifice was dedicated on Sunday, May 13, 1990.

Zion A.M.E. Church, Rockville, Md

Zion A.M.E. Church, Rockville, Maryland. 2012

Source: Clinton AME Zion Church

Rockville Academy Basketball Team 1915-1916

Before opening his Dodge dealership in 1915, Lewis Reed was a well-known amateur photographer in Montgomery County. He would occasionally get phone calls local high schools asking him to take pictures of their athletic teams and graduating classes.

This photo taken by Lewis Reed depicts the Rockville Academy Basketball Team of 1915-1916. Finding photos and information of basketball teams before the 1920s is a difficult task. The only information on this team that I could find was in the May 1981 edition of “The Montgomery County Story” and the news clipping just below it from the Washington Times. From the newsletter:

In 1915, Rockville High School organized an athletic association. They planned teams in baseball, football, and basketball. They quickly lost their first game of basketball to Rockville Academy, 29 to 26.

Rockville Academy Basketball Team 1915-1916

Rockville Academy Basketball Team 1915-1916. Photo Lewis Reed

Back: Roy Hilton, Lester Witherow, Grubb, Hamilton, Edmonds
Middle: Lawrence Higgins, Joe Dawson, Brownell (Buck) Riggs, J. Vinson Peter, John McDonald
Front: John Dawson

Rockville Academy Basketball 1915

The Washington Times January 24, 1915

The Montgomery County Historical Society has identified several people in the photograph. If anyone can help put a name to a face, please leave a comment.

Source: The Montgomery County Story

Lewis Reed Photo: Old Country Store

1900s Country Store

Circa 1900s country store on a dirt road. Note the sign advertising Battle Axe Shoes. Two ladies standing on the porch. Location Unknown. Photo by Lewis Reed

This early 1900s photo taken by Lewis Reed is a flashback to a time when the clip-clop of horses could be heard going down the street, kids would walk to school, and people took the time to care about and create things that would last. This old store would have been considered not very clean from modern standards and the roads outside were unpaved.

While every store was different, there were similarities among many, including a front that was decorated by tin sign advertising, tobacco, cigars, shoes, hardware, and more. The sign in front advertises Battle Axe Shoes, Stephen Putney Shoe Company. I did a little research and found out Samuel and Stephen Putney were father and son shoe manufacturers of Battle Axe Shoes in Richmond, Virginia.

Usually, country stores featured double doors that opened inward and lots of barrels that might contain any number of items — from pickles, to crackers, potatoes, flour and candies. The store was usually an unpainted, two-story frame building fronted by a raised porch for convenient loading and unloading.

One thing in this photo I can’t explain are the steps seemingly leading to nowhere on side of the building. And I wonder what the tall pole is for? It seems to be bracketed on the side of the building. Ideas, folks?

The Putney’s owned and ran Battle Axe Shoes, and had this factory on 2200 West Broad Street as touted by the 1909 Postcard below.

Battle Axe Shoes Postcard

By the way, it appears as if the writer of this postcard was a big fan of CAPS-lock to get his point across.


And environmentally friendly to boot! (Pun intended)

The postcard reads:

“The most ECONOMICALLY ARRANGED shoe plant in the country. Every facility for the saving of time, labor and expense employed. Built of concrete – insurance unnecessary. Entire business (except office) on ONE BIG FLOOR – no elevator costs, less force required, systematic arrangement of stock. Double railroad tracks in building for receiving and shipping freight. Bridge daylight on every side. Because of our greatly REDUCED COSTS OF OPERATION and the many Economical Advantages we posses, we CAN and DO make BATTLE AXE SHOES of SUPERIOR QUALITY over other makes of shoes. STEPHEN PUTNEY SHOE CO., RICHMOND, VA.”

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