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 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.

If there’s an historical marker on the side of the road in Montgomery County, chances are, one of Lewis Reed’s images is on it. Some of the markers that display his photographs include the Andrew Small Academy Marker in Darnestown, The Origins of Darnestown Marker, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Station Marker in Gaithersburg, From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda, Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church Marker in Rockville and the 19th Century Crossroads Marker in Darnestown.

Of particular interest is Lewis Reed’s collection of 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 creating images that made it look as if there were ghosts in the picture. It’s pretty amazing how his early photography shows such versatility and creativity considering the limited tools that were available at the time.

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.

Reed Brothers Auto Glass & Body Shop

Reed Brothers Dodge Auto Glass and Body Repair Shop 1968

Circa 1968, the concrete ramp on the left leads up to the Auto Glass and Body Repair Shop

With a surge in automobile purchases in the early 1900’s, and an equal amount of car accidents and breakdowns, Reed Brothers began offering collision repair services. Just as the automobile has gone through numerous transformations over the last century, so has the auto body repair industry. When Henry Ford first mass produced the car in 1908, it was so new and unlike any other means of transportation at the time, that no one, outside of the few people who designed and built the old Model T Fords, was really qualified to do repairs. In the early years, many people turned to a machinist or even a bicycle repair shop for car repairs. As the popularity of the automobile grew, so did the demand for experienced and reliable mechanics and auto body specialists.

By the 1920s, there were a great deal of cars on the roads, which meant that manufacturers and dealerships needed to provide drivers with the means of repairing their vehicles in the event of a collision or breakdown. To meet this demand, manufacturers started making standardized parts that could easily replace damaged components of a vehicle. Dealerships were now able to employ mechanics that were able to easily repair vehicles using the prefabricated parts provided by the manufacturers. This method of auto repair lasted into the 1930s and 40s, though production and demand for repairs did hit a major decline at this time due to the Great Depression and World War II.

Reed Brothers Dodge Body Shop

As business expanded, Reed Brothers began to explore additional opportunities within the automobile repair industry. In 1947, Reed Brothers added a separately maintained glass shop in their service department which was equipped to replace all types of automobile glass. The glass installations were done by an experienced glazier who had enough work to keep him busy full-time. It eliminated a good deal of the confusion and overlapping which sometimes occurred when glass orders were mixed in with the usual repair work. A separate work area was set up for the glazier and he always had an adequate supply of glass in boxes to be cut down to the needs of any job, ground and polished.

In addition to auto replacements, glass was also cut for mirrors and table tops. Another innovation of the repair department was a separate paint and body shop which was located next to the glass shop. Reed Brothers was capable of repairing all makes and models from all manufacturers with factory-prepared paints available to match any color of car. They had the ability to give all around service except upholstery work and tire recapping.

In 1930, Reed Brothers added the Plymouth line and soon after Dodge trucks. Hand in hand with straight sales was the growth of the service department which at that time had six factory trained mechanics who had full knowledge of automobile needs and how to take care of them. Reed Brothers also owned and operated their Gulf gasoline and service station which was adjacent to their salesroom and repair shop.

By the 1970s, Reed Brothers Dodge Body Shop used state of the art equipment in the repair and refinishing process on all vehicles. Their Chief frame machine utilized a laser measuring system to ensure precision alignment of all body and frame components. The Blowtherm downdraft booth with bake cycle produced a “factory cured” finish that lesser equipment simply cannot match.

Reed Brothers Dodge had computer downloaded specifications for practically every vehicle made and they color match all paints in-house, with world renowned Spies Hecker paint and mixing system. The skilled “plastic surgeons” of the automobile world, their technicians were all formally trained professional with ASE and I-CAR, which kept them up to the minute with the latest technology.

BLOWTHERM downdraft booth

75 Years Ago: Fire Destroys Barns on Rockville Farm

Seventy five years ago, from the pages of The Washington Evening Star newspaper for the first week of September 1944.

Members of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department fought a fire on the farm of Mrs. Rose Veirs, a mile and a half west of Rockville, which destroyed three bars, a silo, livestock and grain. Barn and brush fires were very difficult to control and complete loss of the buildings or fields was usually inevitable. This was the case with Mrs. Rose Veirs who lost three barns, a silo, livestock and grain in a fire in 1944. The farm was associated for 70 years with the prominent Rockville family, the Veirs.

These previously unpublished photographs taken by Lewis Reed show scenes during the fire and extent of the damage.

1944 Rockville Fire

Fire destroys building on the farm of Mrs Rose Veirs. Photo by Lewis Reed.

From The Evening Star, September 07, 1944:

$25,000 Damage Done As Volunteer Firemen Fight Blaze for 5 Hours

Three barns and a silo were leveled, 2 horses and 7 calves were killed and 1,500 bushels of barley and 115 tons of hay were destroyed last night by fire on the 250-acre farm of Mrs Rose Veirs, a mile and a half west of Rockville, Md. Damage was estimated at $25,000 and was partially covered by insurance.

Four pumpers and a rescue wagon from the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department and two pumpers from the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department fought the blaze for five hours, although handicapped by a lack of water.

A small pond was drained, and the pumpers went back to Rockville several times for water. A pump on the property was put to work, but the fire had too far advanced to save the buildings.

L.M. Kennedy, foreman on the farm, discovered the fire about 8:10 p.m. J. Vinson Peter, son-in-law of Mrs, Veirs, manages the farm and gave the estimate of damage.

1944 Rockville Fire

Fire destroys building on the farm of Mrs Rose Veirs. Photo by Lewis Reed.

Organized with 51 men in 1921, the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department now has a diverse complement of over 270 volunteers supported by almost 100 Montgomery County career firefighters. The call volume has increased tremendously over the years, from the 1920’s where the Department responded to about 200 incidents a year to the present, where they responded to over 25,000 incidents in 2017.

Montgomery County High School 100 Years Ago

Montgomery County High School

Originally known as Montgomery County High School, later as Rockville High School and Richard Montgomery High School. Located at the corner of Monroe Street and East Montgomery Avenue. Photo by Lewis Reed, circa 1906.

High school picture day is a tradition that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. In honor of this year’s commencement, here is a look back at a collection of group photos of school children from Montgomery County High School that were taken by Lewis Reed in 1910. Most of the photos are labeled with only the year, so if you have corrections to the names or can identify other individuals, please contact me or leave a comment below. Several students have been identified by the Montgomery County Historical Society, which I have included.

A bit of history: Located in the City of Rockville, Richard Montgomery High School is the oldest public high school in Montgomery County. An allocation in 1892 by the then Board of School Commissioners of a $300 addition to the existing elementary school in Rockville brought to fruition the then named “Rockville High School” that served students from grades one to eleven. The first class of twelve seniors graduated in 1897. In 1904, the Board of Education purchased land at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and Monroe Street for the construction of a new school building, to be renamed “Montgomery County High School” at Rockville. Students came to the school by train, trolley, and later by school bus from all corners of the county. In 1935, when the new “Rockville Colored High School” building opened in Lincoln Park, the Board of Education officially renamed the old Rockville High School, “Richard Montgomery High School.”

Step back in time into a much simpler past and get a look at class photos of Montgomery County High School students from over a century ago. As always, click the photos to get a better look. Some of the expressions on these students faces are priceless!

1910 Montgomery County High School class photo

Montgomery County High School class ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back row: Edward Story, Lena Ricketts, Tom Young, Louise Larcombe, Miss Ford, Fred Hays, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown.
Middle Row: name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Wathen, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Mary Hyatt, name unknown, name unknown.
Front Row: Maude England, Rebecca Lamar, (first name unknown) Garrett, Helen Pumphrey, (first name unknown) Lehman.

Old Rockville High School class photo

Montgomery County High School class, ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Back: Harry Beall, Katherine Hughes.
Middle: names unknown
Front: Edith Prettyman, (first name unknown) Darby

Rockville High School’s First Baseball Team

Interschool athletics in Montgomery County began with a meeting, duly noted in the Sentinel of February 18, 1910, of the principals of the high schools at Rockville, Gaithersburg, Kensington, and Sandy Spring to formulate plans for a baseball league. Within a month, the athletic association of Rockville High School was formed with Roger J. Whiteford, principal, as manager of the baseball team, Edward Story, teacher, as assistant manager, and Jesse Higgins student, as captain.

Old Rockville High School Baseball Team 1910

Rockville High School First Baseball Team, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Front: Billy Beck, Tom Young, Edward Storey, Harry Beall, Roy Warfield.
Back: (first name unknown) Hicks, Lucius Lamar, name unknown, name unknown, Jesse Higgins, name unknown, name unknown, Fred Hays, Roger Whiteford
Holding pennant: Griffith Warfield

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery County High School 1910

Montgomery County High School 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Times have changed dramatically since Montgomery County High School first opened its doors in 1892. One has only to think of the difference between chalk and slate and the new Promethean ActivBoards to begin to understand the new world in which we live.

Credit to: E. Guy Jewell, “Richard Montgomery High School.” The Montgomery County Story Vol. 24 (1981)

Then & Now: State of Pennsylvania Monument (Gettysburg)

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”. The Pennsylvania State Memorial is a monument in Gettysburg National Military Park that commemorates the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the July 1 to 3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. These photos show the same view taken about 109 years apart.

State of Pennsylvania Monument (THEN): This rare photograph was taken by Lewis Reed of the State of Pennsylvania Monument while under construction. Completed in 1914, it is the largest of the state monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Taken approximately 109 years apart, these photos show the State of Pennsylvania Monument then and now.

Pennsylvania State Monument Under Contruction

State of Pennsylvania Monument Under Construction, ca. 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

State of Pennsylvania Monument (NOW): The State of Pennsylvania Monument (at 110 feet tall) incorporates individual sculptures commemorating the six Keystone State generals who fought at Gettysburg — plus President Abraham Lincoln and Governor Andrew Curtain — and 90 bronze plaques emblazoned with the names of each of the 34,530 Pennsylvanians who fought in the battle. It cost $240,000 to build in the early 1900s, or almost $6 million in 2018.

State of Pennsylvania Monument

State of Pennsylvania Monument as it is today.

Source: Wikipedia

Site History Shown With Sanborn Maps

For over a half-century at the triangle, Reed Brothers Dodge became a community icon and a local landmark for motorists traveling to and through Rockville. Recently, I have been interested in discovering more about the early history of the Rockville Garage, which was originally located in the triangle at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. I wanted to know “what was there before” and “how and when it got there”. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine just what a building, street, or neighborhood looked like a century ago. A little bit of creative research can uncover a wealth of information in records that were intended to serve a different purpose, and valuable information can be found from unexpected sources like the Sanborn maps. This post features a series of historical Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Rockville to illustrate how Rockville Garage/Reed Brothers Dodge evolved in the city’s built environment from 1915 to 1960. Originally in color, the digital editions are line drawings only, but provide a great amount of historical data.

From the late-1800’s to the mid-1960’s, the Sanborn Map Publishing Company of New York City created complex footprint maps of approximately 13,000 American cities. Fires were an all-too-common danger, sometimes wiping out major portions of a block. Insurance companies went to great lengths to know what they were insuring. They periodically sent out map-making teams to gather information about the buildings in cities they served. Rockville was one of those cities. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company produced maps of Rockville in 1892, 1897, 1903, 1908, 1915, 1924, 1949, and 1960.

In this post, I have included a zoomed-in map to show detail. Below the map is a photograph that provides a visual of how Reed Brothers Dodge grew over the years. (click images to enlarge)

Aug 1908 Rockville Sanborn Map

1908 Rockville Sanborn Map

Aug 1908 Rockville Sanborn Map (zoomed in)

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sanborn maps were regularly updated as cities and towns grew and changed. Specific changes in an individual site such as when a building was built, expanded, or torn down, can often be dated within a reasonably accurate time frame, depending on how many different map editions for that city are available. These maps provide a very detailed picture of Reed Brothers Dodge at different stages in its history.

The Aug 1908 Sanborn map shows the junction of Rockville & Georgetown Turnpike and Washington Road before the Rockville Garage existed. The map reveals three, two-story dwellings. Letters A, B, and C in front of the dwellings are arbitrary identifications supplied by the Sanborn Map Company. These identifications were necessary in the absence of official numbers actually posted on the buildings.

The Montgomery County Agricultural Society fairgrounds (aka Rockville Fair) was located directly across the Rockville & Georgetown Turnpike. Compared to the Rockville of today, the sparseness of structures in this 1908 map really stands out.

Nov 1915 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map

1915 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map

Nov 1915 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map, Sheet 5 (zoomed in)

The zoomed-in image of the Nov 1915 map shows the one-story Rockville Garage at the junction of Rockville & Georgetown Turnpike and Washington Road. Lewis Reed and brothers Robert and Griffith Warfield established the Rockville Garage in this location after acquiring the building from Lee Ricketts and Sons in July 1915. These maps are quite specific, not only in representing graphically the dimensions of buildings and spaces around them, but also in the details of the construction materials and activities that took place there. Notes on this map indicate that the garage had a 15-car capacity as well as a single gasoline pump. You can also see notes written in regarding building features such as “Heat: Stove In Office”— “Lights: Electric”— “Earth Flr”. They also noted the buried gas tank and where it was located with a small circle. The number “28” represents the official designation for the block provided by the city or arbitrarily by the Sanborn Map Company. The triangle is currently occupied by Rockville Garage, five two-story dwellings, and one vacant lot. In 1916, Lewis Reed purchased 6 lots in Rockville (Land Record, 294/375) and began his expansion in 1917 with a two-story addition behind the original garage.

Note: “CADIZ ALLEY” is an arbitrary designation supplied by the Sanborn Map Company in the absence of a suitable official name. “Cadiz Alley” would later become “Dodge Street”.

1915 Rockville Garage

Original 1915 Rockville Garage located at the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd and Rockville Pike. The single gas pump can be seen in front. The roofs of three two-story dwellings are visible behind the garage.

Nov 1924 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map

1924 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map

Nov 1924 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map, Sheet 7 (zoomed in)

This enlarged view from the 1924 map shows the garage capacity increased to 30 cars. If you look closely, you can see the annotations “G.T.” by four open circles—these indicate the gasoline supply is stored in tanks buried just in front of the building. Solid black circles mark the location of fire hydrants. The dealership’s Office is identified by “OFF”. Saint Mary’s Church and Cemetery is also visible where it still stands today. Other notes written in regarding building features include “Heat: Steam”— “Lights: Electric”. The small circles in the corners of the main building indicated it had a slate or tin roof. The numbers immediately in front of the buildings facing the streets are the official address numbers.

1921 Reed Brothers Dodge

Reed Brothers Dodge got a new remodel in 1921. The original part of the garage was converted into a new car showroom and the service operation was moved out into the rear portion of the building. The Rockville Fairgrounds are beyond the boarded fence. Photo by Lewis Reed

By tracking Reed Brothers Dodge on successive Sanborn maps—1915, 1924, 1949 and 1960—I have confirmed a couple of things. First, Lewis Reed purchased a total of 6 residential lots in the triangle to expand his business. The expansions took place over the course of about 50 years—from 1917 to about 1953. Second, and more curiously, sometime between 1924 and 1949, Cadiz Alley became “Dodge Street”. The street was named “Dodge Street” by the State of Maryland sometime following the dealership’s 1936 expansion. The number “28” marks the spot where Reed Brothers constructed completely new buildings for the Parts and Service Departments.

June 1949 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map, Sheet 10

1949 Sanborn Map Rockville

June 1949 Rockville Maryland Sanborn Map, Sheet 10 (zoomed in)

After 1924, there is a large gap in the sequence of Sanborn maps, and the next survey was published in 1949. This map shows the expansion of the showroom and Gulf Gas Station that took place during the mid-1930s.  At about the same time as the gas station was remodeled, Lewis Reed split up the Sales and Parts and Service operations by constructing a complete new building; it was located at the intersection of at Montgomery Avenue and Dodge Street. In this image of the June 1949 map, you can see notes written within the “Auto Repair” building regarding construction materials such as “Cinder Block”—“Steel Trusses”— “Pilasted Walls”—”Conc. Fls”. This map reveals that Reed Brothers has implemented automatic sprinklers throughout Auto Sales & Service as indicated by the symbol “AS” within a circle. The solid black circle with “D.H.” at the top of the map identifies a Double Hydrant. New buildings for Auto Sales & Service and Auto Repair have replaced dwellings A, B, and C. One remaining two-story dwelling stands near the back of the dealership, in front of the new Parts and Service building. Block number (28) has been changed to “97”.

1936 Reed Brothers Dodge

Mid-1930s aerial view of Reed Brothers at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. A two-story house stands behind the dealership. Photo taken by Lewis Reed from a Goodyear Blimp that came to the dealership in the late 1930s to promote tires.

June 1949 Rockville Sanborn Map, Sheet 10, Revised Jan 1960

June 1949 Rockville Sanborn Map

June 1949 Rockville Sanborn Map, Sheet 10, Revised Jan 1960 (zoomed in)

This final map is a new report that was updated in Jan 1960. Due to changes in the highway in 1953, Reed Brothers began an extensive remodeling and rebuilding program. The program consisted of a sizable addition to the service shop which enlarged the showroom area and housed the Parts Department. Two-thirds of the original location at the junction of Montgomery Avenue and Veirs Mill Road was razed and a modern Gulf Service Station was erected. The zoomed-in map reveals the new Gulf “ice box” design filling station in front. The last two-story house was demolished and replaced with a parking lot and used car lot, which now completes the triangle.

1960s Reed Brothers Dodge

1960s aerial view showing the used car lot where previously stood a two-story house. Photo by Lewis Reed

Today, Sanborn maps are rarely used by insurance companies, having been supplanted by new technologies. However, these maps remain a vital source of historical information. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company’s maps are a great way to get a visual sense of the development and changes that took place in the city over time. Today, they can be invaluable for uncovering a business’s long-lost historical details.

Notes: All map screenshots in this post are courtesy of the Library of Congress digital collection of Sanborn maps.
The original Sanborn maps were printed in color, so some details from the original historical maps do not show.

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