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.

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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.

Then & Now: Old Post Office and Clock Tower Washington, DC

Old Post Office and Clock Tower (THEN): Seen in the black & white photograph taken by Lewis Reed in 1910, is the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. The Old Post Office, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Old Post Office and Clock Tower and located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., was begun in 1892, completed in 1899. It is the second-tallest structure in the nation’s capital, after the Washington Monument. Adjoining the building to the right is the E. H. Snyder Tailors Shop and Washington Utilities Company.

U.S. Post Office 1910

Old Post Office, 1910. Photo by Lewis Reed

Trump International Hotel and Clock Tower (NOW): Though DC residents might call it the Old Post Office out of habit, it now houses the Trump International Hotel. Even though it has been renovated into a luxury hotel, the Old Post Office Pavilion Clock Tower remains open to the public and run by the National Park Service.  

Old Post Office and Clock Tower

Trump International Hotel and Clock Tower in Washington, DC today

Source: Wikipedia

Reed Brothers Beginnings at the “Triangle”

Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States; the Green Bay Packers did not yet exist; the United States was two years away from joining World War I; the cost of a stamp was two cents, and Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland was founded. It is a family business history that parallels the evolution of the American automobile industry itself.

1915 Rockville Garage

1915 Rockville Garage located at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. The sign on the right side of the Garage reads Gasoline, Fisk Tires and Supplies. Note the single gas pump in front. Rockville Garage had the first Gulf gas station in the still-rural Washington D.C. area.

One hundred years ago, the direction of the auto industry was uncharted territory to be explored by many people. Lewis Reed was an enterprising young man who put his future in the fledgling automobile industry. Although the specific motivation for Lewis Reed to go into the automobile business is not clear, the 1910s was a period of exponential growth in the American automobile industry, and with a location on the major east-west route through Rockville, a town that was on its way to becoming a satellite community of Washington, D.C., he was well positioned for success.

The 1910 census indicates that 23-year old Lewis Reed was working as a machinist. In 1915, Lewis Reed and brothers Robert L. and Griffith Warfield established Rockville Garage after acquiring the building from Lee Ricketts and Sons who had the Overland Agency. In 1918, Lewis Reed bought out Rockville Garage from the Warfield’s and changed the name to Reed Brothers Dodge. Soon after opening the doors to his dealership, Lewis Reed started to expand. In 1917, a two-story addition was added. The first floor housed the Service Department and upper floor was used for parts storage. At the left side of the two story building was a narrow vehicle entrance that led to the service department in the rear. A house can be seen behind the addition. Lewis Reed later purchased the remaining five residential lots to expand his dealership in the back.

1917 Rockville Garage

1917 Rockville Garage with two-story addition. Photo by Lewis Reed

In addition to Dodge Brothers Motor Cars, Rockville Garage carried Hudson and Oldsmobile. To survive the early days in the automobile business, most dealerships sold several makes of cars. Cross-selling was an acceptable business practice until the late 1940s when brand loyalty took hold. Also by then, the vast number of automobile manufacturers had been pared down. Reed Brothers got a new remodel in 1921, and an island with three new modern gas pumps were added. By this time, gasoline retailers had determined that placing gas pumps on an “island” in front of the station, where drivers could approach from either side, provided the most efficient station layout.

Reed Brothers Dodge 1922

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. Note the modern gas pumps. Photo by Lewis Reed.

In the late 1920s, a second story was added to the showroom with a glazed front looking out onto Rockville Pike on the right. A modern drive-through canopy was added along with new gasoline pumps and Dodge Brothers Motor Car and Graham Brothers Truck signage. “That Good Gulf” was one of the the Gulf Refining Company’s marketing slogans for a number of years during the twenties and thirties. Another interesting detail is the placement of floodlights on the canopy roof pointing at the signs.

Reed Brothers Dodge 1922

That Good Gulf Gasoline drive-through filling station with canopy and gasoline pumps were added in the late 1920s. Photo by Lewis Reed

The new car showroom below is filled with late 1920s Dodge Brothers new car models. The high ceilings and mezzanine floor gives an air of elegance to the showroom and the expanse of windows on the front extends the full width of the building. Locating a showroom “in relation to traffic” was of the utmost importance. The showroom faced the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike which gave the dealership maximum visibility to the largest volume of cross traffic. Behind the large plate glass windows and an awning above was the product — the new car. It appears the showroom could accommodate 4-5 new automobiles. An upper floor mezzanine housed the dealership’s Parts Department and storage area. This level was accessed by a wide, open staircase. All of the elaborate design features inside, such as the high ceiling, wood railings, and mezzanine were usually reserved for upscale dealerships. To find this level of construction expense in a dealership selling mid-priced cars was extremely rare.

1920 Dodge Showroom

Late 1920s New Car Showroom. Photo by Lewis Reed

In 1930, Reed Brothers added the Plymouth line. Even though times were tough during the Great Depression, Reed Brothers was doing well enough to finance another facelift and renovation; the front of the Gulf Gasoline Station and the canopy was remodeled as shown below during the mid-thirties.

Reed Brothers Dodge 1936 After WW II and the Addition of Gulf Gas

The forth update to the showroom and Gulf Gas Station during the mid-thirties. Plymouth signage can now be seen on the side of the building along with Dodge. Photo by Lewis Reed

After years of hard work that also helped to establish an excellent reputation, once again Reed Brothers Dodge needed to expand. 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 East Montgomery Avenue and Dodge Street. The showroom was ideally located at the intersection of two streets, with a large curving window placed within the field of vision of approaching traffic and designed in such as way as to increase drivers’ viewing time. The corner showroom window simulated a “corner statement.”

1936 Parts and Service Dept

In 1936 Reed Brothers constructs a complete new building for the Parts and Service Departments. Photo by Lewis Reed.

At this point, eight new cars and trucks were being sold each month, along with a number of used car sales. Many purchases at the time, as had been the custom for years in the automobile business, were still initiated at a prospect’s home or job site; as many of the customers were farmers, the Reed’s had an active team of salesman in place who called on prospects right on their property.

Due to changes in the highway, Reed Brothers began an extensive remodeling and rebuilding program. Two-thirds of the original location at the junction of then Route 240 and Veirs Mill Road was razed and a modern Gulf Service Station was erected. Below is a mid-1960’s photo of the Reed Brothers Dodge Gulf Gasoline station. The famous Gulf “ice box” design dates back to late 1930’s and there were probably more of these built than any single one of the later Gulf designs.

Reed Brothers Dodge Gulf Gas Station mid-1960s

The fifth update after 1953 reconstruction of new Gulf Gas Station. Photo by Lewis Reed.

Two great entrepreneurs, Lewis and Edgar Reed, built and sustained a business that lasted for more than a half-century at one location under one ownership, and earned a place not just in the history of Maryland, but in American automobile history as well. For 55 years at the triangle, Reed Brothers Dodge became a community icon and a local landmark for motorists traveling to and through Rockville.

Original 1928 Incorporators: Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department

Fire protection has been a recognized need in Montgomery County since the early 1800s, although there were not any formal organized volunteer or career fire departments until almost 100 years later.

Organization began to take place in Gaithersburg in the late 1880s as the town grew in response to the coming of the railroad and by September 1892, the town wanted a more formal fire organization. Six citizens were appointed to find a way and the means to organize a volunteer fire department, which they did immediately. A month later, the Volunteer Fire Company of Gaithersburg was responding to fires. There were, of course, no firehouses that housed on-duty firefighters of scheduled shifts for volunteers, and when the alarm rang all volunteers would come running. Eden Selby, who was the town barber around 1900, would drop what he was doing when he heard the church bells ring and run to duty, which would often leave customers with unique hairstyles unless they chose to wait in the chair for him to return. During the 1920s, fires destroyed much of Gaithersburg’s downtown – the Post Office, Etchison’s Store, Brewer’s Real Estate offices and Thomas Hardware, Feed and Fertilizer – and in 1928 the present Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Fire Department was created by charter.

Original incorporators when the fire company was chartered were Lewis Reed, William Barnett, Garry Bell, Herbert Diamond, William Dutrow, Ernest C. Gartner, Merle Jacobs, Frank Severance, Clyde Thomas and Thomas Troxell.

Gaithersburg Washington Grove Fire Company Incorporated 1928

The Frederick Post, Frederick, MD April 2, 1928

I was doing some online research and stumbled upon the Kensington (Maryland) Volunteer Fire Department’s web page. Their history is quite amazing, actually. Especially when I realized that their first truck was purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge. It was not a complete truck when purchased, however.

From the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department’s “History” webpage:

1922 was the birth of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department. With little money, a Dodge truck was purchased from Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville. A custom fire body was then built and fitted on the truck by Jacobs Brothers in Gaithersburg who ran the Wheelwright Shop on East Diamond Avenue. To raise money, the volunteers held carnivals. The Fire Department incorporated in 1925, and two years later moved into a permanent home in the basement of the National Guard Armory.

G-burg Washington Grove Fire Dept Past & Present Officers

Past Officers of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Fire Department. Pictured left to right: name unknown, Ernest C. Gartner, Charles Fox, Clyde Thomas, Dr. Frank Broschart, Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed was a Charter Member and Past President of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The wall plaque below displays Past Presidents and Past Chiefs. Lewis Reed was President from Feb.1933-Feb 1937. His name plate is 5th down on the left.

Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Dept Past Presidents and Past Chiefs

Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department Past Presidents and Past Chiefs

In 1967, the first career fire fighters joined the department. Today, the brave volunteers, career fire fighters and emergency medical personnel of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Fire Department continue in the courageous footsteps of their noble predecessors as they heroically serve our community.

Source: Fire Protection in Montgomery County: Bucket Brigade to High Tech

Then & Now: Computing Tabulating Recording Company (aka IBM)

It might feel like things are always changing in Washington DC. There are always new buildings being built, businesses closing and with every few years. But you might not realize how much Washington DC has changed until you look back at 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 google street view image for “now”. Taken approximately 108 years apart, these photos show Hollerith’s Plant then and now.

THEN: Before becoming interested in automobiles, Lewis Reed was one of the original employees of the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became International Business Machines, Inc. The Tabulating Machine Company was formed by Hermann Hollerith in 1896 and merged to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911. Seen in the photo below, the two-story building housed Hollerith’s card manufacturing plant, assembly plant, repair shop and development laboratory. Hollerith later incorporated his business as the Tabulating Machine Company. It was consolidated into the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. in 1911, and was renamed International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924.

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Hollerith’s Plant 1911. Photo by Lewis Reed

NOW: Today the U.S. technology sector is inextricably linked with the West Coast, but the history of data processing actually traces back to an unassuming brick factory in Washington, D.C. This was the Georgetown headquarters of the Tabulating Machine Company, an early analog computer manufacturer that you may know by the contemporary moniker IBM. IBM placed a historical plaque on the corner of the building by 31st Street and the Canal. Hollerith is also buried nearby in the Oak Hill Cemetery.

Tabulating Machine Company

Front of the old Tabulating Machine Company on 31st Street today

Tabulating Machine Company Delivery Truck

Tabulating Machine Company Delivery Truck. Note that the writing on the side of the truck is in reverse… I have no idea why. Photo by Lewis Reed

The following photographs are interior images.

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Tabulating Machine Co. 1911

Photo by Lewis Reed

Source: IBM Archives

Valentines Day and Ferris Wheels!

Vintage Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel at Rockville Fair, circa 1920s. Photo by Lewis Reed

Did you know that February 14th is not only Valentine’s Day, but also Ferris Wheel Day? This unofficial national holiday is held on this day to honor the birth of the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. What better way to celebrate Ferris Wheel Day than enjoying this old photograph of the Ferris Wheel taken at the Rockville Fairgrounds, courtesy of Lewis Reed. The fairgrounds were just outside Rockville, about where Richard Montgomery High School is today. The Fair lasted four days, from August 21st to the 24th, and drew visitors from local counties, Washington, and Baltimore.

For the singles and the “enough already with the Valentines”, here is your perfect alternative excuse. Go wish all your friends and family a Happy Ferris Wheel Day!

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