Montgomery History has launched a new online exhibit co-developed by Blog Author, Jeanne Gartner and Montgomery History Librarian & Archivist, Sarah Hedlund: “Montgomery County, 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed”. Explore Montgomery County and its environs in the early 20th century through the lens of Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. A pioneering automobile dealer and one of the most prolific photographers in Montgomery County at the turn of the 20th century, Reed took motorcycle excursions all over the state of Maryland with his camera, capturing landscapes, monuments, historical places, people, and anything else that caught his attention.
The presentation of the Lewis Reed collection features his photography in several themed exhibitions (Transportation, Photo-magic, Recreation, and Daily Life) which will be released separately over time. The first exhibition, “Transportation in Montgomery County”, features some of the earliest known photographs of various modes of transportation, from horses and canal boats to motorcycles and automobiles. It is an absolutely unique window into how Montgomery Countians lived over a century ago.
Click on the category you are interested in below to visit the various presentations and their photographic content. Through the lens of Lewis Reed, we see that Montgomery County’s history is America’s history.
- Transportation: Lewis Reed loved moving vehicles and photographed the evolution of transportation happening around him at the turn of the century. Explore the pages on modes of transportation in Montgomery County from horse power to automobiles.
- Photo-magic: details how self-taught photographer and county native Lewis Reed edited photos before computers existed, using techniques like hand-tinting and double exposure.
- Recreation [coming soon!]
- Daily Life [coming soon!]
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 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 local history publications, and in historical television programming, including on the national television show American Pickers, Science Channel Impossible Engineering, Maryland Public Television, and the American Experience History Series 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.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner who passed away eight months ago on September 10, 2019. Her father was Lewis Reed, founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. It’s hard for me not to reflect on what an amazing person she was. As with most people, I have a few people in my life who really inspire me, and my mom is one of them.
One of the most important things that I ever adopted to help me in achieving my goals were those I learned from my mother. My mother taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that anything worth doing, is worth doing well. With her as my inspiration, I have been able to fearlessly reinvent myself as my life and times have changed. I cannot express my gratitude for her in words, whose unconditional love has been my greatest strength. My mother has always motivated me to be successful, encouraged me in all of my pursuits, and instilled in me the belief that I can achieve whatever it is that I desire. Her motto is one that I still live by to this day, “There is no such thing as can’t.” Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I always give myself reasons why I can.
I am an author of two self-published books: “Portrait of an Automobile Dealer, Third Edition” and “Lewis Reed Photograph Collection (1898-1960)”. My mother was my primary source for information in both books. There was little documentation that accompanied the photographs, leading me to research through mostly her accounts of where the photos might have been taken, or who was in them. She assisted me with family information, photographs, and photo identification. Throughout this, my mother’s stories have influenced my interest in local history in general, and my interest in the history of our family business in particular.
One of my greatest joys was looking through all of my grandfather’s photographs along with my mother. On many afternoon visits with her, we went through hundreds of photographs and wrote down names, dates, and locations to the best of her recollection. This weekly activity, working together with her sharing memories and photos about previous generations, has been one of the greatest joys of my adult life.
Watching my mom’s eyes light up when I gave her the first proof book of her father’s entire photograph collection — 350 pages and 2500+ photographs — was a beautiful thing to see. True magic happened when she opened that book and started looking through the pictures. The book was a monumental task, and almost 10 years in the making, but it had a monumental reward at the end. Bringing out all those cherished memories for my mom was truly a celebration of her life.
If your mother is still living, don’t forget to say “thank you” to her often, especially on Mother’s Day. And if she’s gone, thank God often for the memories you have, and the life and legacy she gave to you. I lost my mom eight months ago. And I still miss her every day. But I find it helps to take the perspective that I didn’t really lose her. I know exactly where she is and where she’ll always be. She is alive in my memories and the link to all of the history I share on this blog. Mom, this is for you… Happy Mother’s Day!
The story of transportation in Montgomery County is the saga of people constantly on the move. The difficulties people faced when they transported themselves or their goods from one place to another during the late 19th and early 20th century are almost impossible for us to comprehend today. Before the invention of trains and automobiles, animal power was the main form of travel. People were continually searching for new and better ways to transport people and goods as dependably and as fast as possible, and they started with the horse.
Many of the problems associated with the automobile today were common to the horse and carriage in the in the early 20th century: traffic jams, parking problems, noise, accidents, pollution. Of these, the most distressing was the last. While the horse emitted no exhaust, it did emit, often dropping excrement into the middle of the road. A typical horse produced more than 30 pounds of dung each day. Furthermore, horse-drawn transportation required constant attention and care, so much that wealthy Americans seldom managed horses themselves and often hired coachmen and grooms as intermediaries. The blacksmith was an important man, running a business like a modern car repair garage.
The following images from Lewis Reed’s collection illustrate various modes of transportation before highways and cars.
During the 19th century, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal provided transportation for goods between Cumberland and the Chesapeake Bay. Mules were the preferred “engines” of the C&O Canal boat because they were cheaper to purchase than horses and were less prone to illness and injury. Mules adapted very well to life on a canal boat and could pull a 140-ton boat eight hours a day, seven days a week. Mules had both longer life spans and longer work lives than horses and could pull canal boats for twenty years if they were taken care of properly. To get a loaded boat going, the mules would have to walk until the line was taut, then put their weight into it, and step once the boat had moved, and repeat this process. Within 25 feet, the boat would be moving.
It’s hard to imagine a world without cars, buses, and trucks. But put yourself back in the early 20th century. Before the invention of trains and automobiles, animal power was the main form of travel. Horses, donkeys, and oxen pulled wagons, coaches, and buggies. Early settlers often used oxen to pull their big wagons. Oxen were slower than horses, but they could pull four times as much weight.
In this circa 1910 photograph two men pose with an ox-drawn wagon in front of the little Popes Creek Post Office on the Potomac River. Two elegantly dressed women with hats stand outside on the porch. Note the two-person horse buggy on the right. The Potomac River is visible in the background. The Popes Creek Post Office probably served as a social gathering place for the community.
Everyone’s heard the phrase, “as strong as an ox”. Oxen often were used as draft animals in the early 20th century. They supplied much of the power associated with agriculture and were used to haul heavy loads, plow fields, and for carrying goods. A two-animal team usually can manage several tons. Interesting fact: Oxen cost half as much as horses, required half the feed and could be eaten in an emergency.
Point of Rocks is a far as one can go on Route 28 to escape urbanization and see the way things once were along the rest of the route in Montgomery County.
The carriage became a precise and very visible marker of mid-century class status. People in society were judged by their mode of travel. Just as today we know the difference in class between a Kia and a Mercedes Benz, people could tell the rank of others by a glance at their horse and carriage. The carriage in this photo was known as a runabout, which was a light, open, horse-drawn vehicle with four large wheels. Similar to a buggy, the runabout was used for informal travel or “running about” on errands.
By the early 20th century, the most popular vehicle in America was the buggy, a light, four-wheel carriage with or without a collapsible top that seated one or two people.
Buggies traversed rutted dirt roads across the Montgomery County countryside — sometimes their occupants needed a rest in the shade from the jolting motion of the carriage and the pounding heat of the sun.
Less than a hundred years ago, before machines were invented, the horse was mans great partner.
From the late 1890s to the 1920s, carriages and automobiles overlapped on city streets, as shown in the above photo.
Youngsters, especially those born into wealthy families, needed to have experience riding and handling horses from a (sometimes very) early age.
The demise of horse-drawn vehicles began in the late-nineteenth century with the gradual transition to other forms of transportation, particularly motorized streetcars and automobiles. The man most responsible for putting the world on wheels, Henry Ford, had disliked horses since one had dragged him around his farm as a 9-year-old. He exacted revenge with the introduction of his Model T in 1908.
Ninety-one years ago today, one of the worst tornado outbreaks in area history devastated a part of Montgomery County Maryland. At about 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 1929, northeastern Montgomery County was struck by an F3 tornado, part of a large storm system that caused devastation from Florida to Ohio. The weekly Montgomery County Sentinel reported on May 10th that the “wind storm of cyclonic power . . . was of limited width and serpentine on its course. Everything in its path met with destruction.” These previously unpublished photographs were taken by Lewis Reed “after the tornado of May 2, 1929”.
The damage in the county was limited to the rural Unity area, north of Brookeville. The Sentinel article detailed each affected farm, noting that “thousands of persons from far and near visited the scene for several days to look upon the indescribable wreckage.”
From the Sentinel: “The storm showed its first violence upon the farm of Mr. J. William Benson. There it destroyed every building – the dwelling house, large barn, 117 feet long, including an attached shed, and all other outbuildings.” The farm was unoccupied, but furniture belonging to “a prospective tenant” was destroyed. Mr. Benson’s apple orchard was also significantly damaged, and the article claimed that “many [trees] were lifted into the air, carried over woods and landed several miles away.”
The fire departments of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Sandy Spring responded to the call made by farm worker James Leizear, who “extricated himself from the wreckage” and ran half a mile to a neighbor’s house to summon help.
The Post reported on May 4th that 28 people in Maryland and Virginia had been killed by tornadoes during the storm; most of the casualties were in Virginia, where an elementary school was struck full-force and at least 18 children died. In Montgomery County, the local Red Cross Chapter formed a citizen committee to raise funds “for relief of the sufferers.”
Note: These photographs were undated and unlabeled in my grandfather’s collection. My mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner, who is seen above when she was almost 7 years old, positively identified these photographs and just about pinpointed the location! It’s amazing the things you remember from your early childhood.
Information Source: A Fine Collection
Have you ever wondered what Rockville looked like a century ago? Old photos have an amazing way of showing us what life was like years ago and depicting how our communities once looked. 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 chosen some of Lewis Reed’s original photographs of landmark buildings and streetscapes and paired them with a Google image to show how the city has transformed over the years. Some historic buildings have been substantially modified; others are gone entirely. Of course, historic buildings are sometimes removed to make way for something even better – look and decide for yourself. As always, click the photos to get a better look.
The Halpine Store, 1906 The Halpine Store, also known as the Lenovitz General Store, was built on Rockville Pike in 1898, taking advantage of the prime location on the trolley and railroad lines and the Pike. The store sold food, gasoline and other items to locals and Pike travelers. There is a young African American man standing in front of the store. Note the telephone or telegraph poles, and the trolley tracks paralleling the road. The nearby Halpine railroad station also brought customers to the area, and the store became the social/community gathering place for the Halpine area.
The proprietors, Benjamin and Anna Lenovitz, lived on the second floor. The building burned in 1923 and a new fire-resistant brick building was rebuilt in its place. This building, at 1600 Rockville Pike, became a Radio Shack, selling computers and electronics. Rockville Pike is now six lanes, linking the once outlying Halpine and Montrose with Rockville’s town center in one long strip of commercial enterprises and office buildings.
Vinson’s Pharmacy, 1906 Vinson’s Pharmacy was built in the 1880s and was run by Robert William “Doc” Vinson from 1900 until his death in 1958. The store had previously been owned and/or operated by several men, including D.F. Owens and E.T. Fearon. The drugstore was a popular gathering place for city politicians, and that President Woodrow Wilson once personally traveled there to buy Wolfhound tablets. In the photo below, taken in downtown Rockville, a delivery wagon can be seen at the curb, as well as advertisements for Coca-Cola, which would have been a product only 20 years old at that time, having been invented and trademarked in 1887. Trolley tracks bisect Montgomery Avenue. Previous to Edgar Reed’s enlistment in World War I, he had been employed as a clerk by Vinson’s Drug Store for eight years. In 1919, Edgar became a partner with his brother, Lewis Reed, in the firm Reed Brothers Dodge.
Baltimore Road Railroad Crossing and Rockville Water Tower, 1909 A school bus accident in 1935 resulted in new safety rules for the B&O Railroad, and the elimination of at-grade crossings along the line. The train station signal tower is on the left. Signal towers once served as the operational hub at many railroad locations and kept the railroad moving. Without them, railroads would have gotten clogged up if the train crews had to go out and align all of the switches for a particular move.
The pipe stem tower was an element of the 1897 pumping station known as the “Rockville Electric Lights and Water Works,” located in Rockville Park and the future Croydon Park. In about 1899, Rockville got its first water tower at a cost of about $20,000. Its construction signaled the dawn of local municipal water service. Prior to the tower’s construction, water in the city was primarily drawn from private wells. Concern for water quality in the 1880s led to the decision to develop a municipal system. The stand pipe was a typical shape for a water tower at the turn of the century. From this high point, water could be piped throughout the town.
Montrose School, 1909 Completed in 1909, Montrose School was designed as a two room schoolhouse and offered classes for first to seventh grade. Other modern amenities included kerosene hurricane lamps affixed to the walls and pot-bellied coal burning stoves in each classroom; an outside hand pump provided well water, and outdoor boys’ and girls’ rest rooms. Increased modernization, including electricity and indoor plumbing were added throughout the early to middle decades of the 20th century. One hundred students enrolled.
In 1979, Montrose School was designated historic by Montgomery County and in 1983, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Restored by Peerless Rockville, Montrose School was last open to the public in 2009. The school continues to serve the local communities as an historic icon and a reminder of the value of local preservation.
Woodlawn Hotel/Chestnut Lodge, 1910 Opened as a luxury hotel in 1889 for Washingtonians seeking to escape the city’s summer heat, the Woodlawn Hotel thrived until the economy and more accessible transportation made Rockville a suburb of Washington rather than a summer vacation destination. The hotel was then purchased by Dr. Ernest L. Bullard who reopened the building, naming it Chestnut Lodge, as “a sanitarium for the care of nervous and mental diseases”. The Bullard family operated nationally famous Chestnut Lodge for 75 years. The building was conveyed to a developer in 2003 with the intention to convert it to condominiums as part of the development of the Chestnut Lodge property. The facade and the chestnut grove from which it got its name were to be preserved. The downturn in the real estate market derailed those plans.
Sadly, a fire on June 7, 2009 destroyed the landmark building that began as Woodlawn Hotel and came to symbolize the psychiatric institution of Chestnut Lodge. Today, the Chestnut Lodge campus is preserved for the community and consists of Little Lodge, Frieda’s Cottage, a Stable and an Ice House, and eight acres of forested lawn.
Rockville B&O Railroad Station, Early 1900s Built in 1873, the Rockville Train Station was one of several stops along the route between Washington’s Union Station and Point of Rocks where the Metropolitan Branch joined the B&O Main Line of the railroad. Along the route of the railroad were twenty-six stations. In the early days people came to the stations on foot, on horseback, in buggies. Some wives took their commuting husbands to the station in the buggy in the morning and then met the train as it came through in the evening.
While the station helped to spur Rockville’s early growth, development pressures would later threaten its existence. In the mid-1970s Metro’s original plans for the Rockville Metro Station and the final phase of construction on the Red Line called for the demolition of the B&O Station which by then was disused and in disrepair. However, Peerless Rockville, then only one year old, brought the station’s plight to the attention of the City and Metro, ultimately negotiating a compromise—the station and its freight house would not be demolished, but instead would be relocated so that a new tenant could be found to occupy the historic buildings, while allowing the Metro construction to continue as planned.
In 1981, the 400-ton station carefully was lifted off of its foundation, moved approximately 30 feet to the south, and reoriented 180 degrees so that the train platform which originally faced the tracks now faced Church Street and the Wire Hardware Store.
Tenallytown and Rockville Pike Trolley Line, 1910 A trolley heads south from Rockville toward Tenallytown through open farmland. The view appears to be looking north and shows the area south of where Montrose Road intersects with Rockville Pike. The Pike is the white strip running diagonally behind the trolley car. The elevated vantage point, possibly from an adjacent rooftop or the roof of a barn, affords an excellent view of the rural countryside. Today, the six-mile Bethesda Trolley Trail connects Bethesda and Rockville for bicyclists, runners and pedestrians, following the route of the Tenallytown and Rockville Railroad, the former trolley line.
Veirs Mill, 1910 Marker Inscription. “Veirs Mill was built by Samuel Clark Veirs in 1838. It was operated by Veirs and Co., or Veirs and Bros., for 89 years. Known by many as Rock Creek Mills, it drew customers from Rockville and Mitchel’s Crossroads (now Wheaton), through a route that became known as Veirs Mill Road. The water-powered grist and saw mill was powered by a 12-foot drop of water directed along a mill race from Rock Creek. The first story of the building was stone, and the second two stories wood. The mill was located on the west side of Veirs Mill Road and south of Rock Creek. The millers house was on the northwest corner of Veirs Mill Road and Aspen Hill Road. Samuel Veirs lived nearby at Meadow Hall. Samuel Veirs was a prominent Rockville citizen, serving as a judge in the Orphans Court from 1864 until his death in 1872.”
The mill reportedly stood as late as 1927 before the improvements to Veirs Mill Road erased the site.
Montgomery County High School, 1911 Rockville High School was established in 1892, when the state Board of Education first allocated funds to local school to educate high school students. In the first State report of school statistics nine years later, the Rockville school was listed as enrolling 47 pupils. The first 12 graduates received their diplomas from “Rockville High School” 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.
When “Rockville Colored High School” opened in 1935 at Lincoln School in Lincoln Park, the School Board officially renamed the school for white students “Richard Montgomery High School.” Five years later, a fire destroyed the old building. The board purchased land near the old Rockville Fairgrounds, adjacent to the new Park Street Elementary School, and in 1942 students paraded from Monroe Street to their new school at the current site.
Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse, 1912 The 50-acre tract which includes a pauper’s graveyard was once part of the Montgomery County Poor Farm, established in 1789 as a place where the poor and homeless went to live, work, and, if they died, to be buried. At the time, the farm was located well beyond the bounds of what was then the town of Rockville. But growth eventually caught up with the property. The farm house was razed in 1959 to make way for a county jail, and another chunk of property was dedicated for I-270. At least 75 graves were identified during a 1983 survey of the property by state archeologists, but according to George R. Snowden, funeral director, there may be as many as 500 people buried in the potter’s field.
A modern jail is on its site on Seven Locks Road adjacent to I-270. Reportedly, there was a “Potter’s Field” burial ground nearby. Some small markers were visible several years ago, along a dirt road across I-270 that marks the future Monroe Street. There are no remaining above-ground resources related to the Poor Farm at this site.
Montgomery House Hotel, 1912 The Montgomery House Hotel, across Courthouse Square from the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville, served as Confederate General Jubal Early’s headquarters during the Civil War. A hotel of the Rockville resort era, it was owned in 1879 by M. A. Almoney later by John Kelchner. After World War I it became known as the Dixie Tavern. The Montgomery House was located on Court House Square until it was torn down. The Montgomery House no longer stands. Its site is now the NW corner of Maryland Avenue and Courthouse Square and is occupied by a modern office building.
Rockville Baptist Church, 1912 The Baptist Church was located on the SW corner of South Washington and Jefferson Streets from about 1908 until the early 1970s. It cost $14,671 and was built largely through contributions of Spencer C. Jones, son of the first pastor Joseph Jones. A parsonage was constructed next door in 1914. The church sold its property in 1971 and moved to a modern structure on Adclare Road. A BB&T bank building replaced the church and parsonage in 1974.
Clinton Zion A.M.E. Church in Rockville, 1912 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. 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.
The Pump House at Croydon Park, 1912 Built in 1897, the Pump House is a significant historical landmark. Once known as the “Rockville Electric Lights & Water Works,” the building was the City’s first public water system and supplier of electricity for street lights and private homes. By 1957 a new water treatment facility was opened, drawing water from the Potomac River. With the new plant, the City stopped the use of the wells at the Pump House and renovated the building for the Public Works Department. They remained there until 1962 when the building was slated for demolition.
By 2009, the facility was in dire need of a significant upgrade for use. The City of Rockville completed a full interior and partial exterior renovation of the Pump House and on January 9, 2011, the City rededicated the building.
East Montgomery Avenue Near the Court House, 1914 The shops sold groceries, baked goods, sewing machines, hats, lumber, and hardware. Families lived above their stores, renting rooms to others. From right to left is the H. Reisinger Bakery, Confectionery, Ice Cream and Lunch Room, 5 and 10-cent Bargain Store, W. Hicks General Store, Suburban Electrical Company (SECO), and a two-story dwelling.
Washington Hicks operated the general or dry goods store in Rockville from the late 19th century until 1940. His son W. Guy Hicks continued to run the store until his retirement in the late 1950s. The upper story of the building was the living quarters of Mr and Mrs B. F. Hicks. The building was later acquired by W. Valentine Wilson, who tore it down and replaced it with the “SECO” for Mr Wilson’s Suburban Electric Company. The ground floor was made into a moving picture theater in 1915. Sidney Lust took over the operation of this theater between 1931 and 1935 and renamed it the Arcade. He closed it down on April 21, 1935 and opened the new Milo later that year.
Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville, 1914 The Red Brick Courthouse is not the first courthouse in Montgomery County, but it is the oldest. When Montgomery County was established in 1776, a tavern served as the first courthouse and the County seat was located at the rural but central crossroads of what was to become Rockville. Completed in 1891, the Red Brick Courthouse was the County’s fourth courthouse.
During the 1970s, the Courthouse was renovated and used by the Sheriff and the Circuit Court. When the new Judicial Center opened across the street in 1982, the Red Brick Courthouse ended nearly a century of continuous judicial use. Today, the Red Brick Courthouse serves as headquarters for Peerless Rockville and continues to serve as a working courthouse for Montgomery County.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1914 Built in 1817, St. Mary’s is the oldest church still in use in Rockville. Rockville was chosen for the church location for its relatively large concentration of Catholics, its central location, and its prominence as the County seat. St. Mary’s became the church from which other up-county mission churches sprang.
Today, the church overlooks the same intersection of roads now called Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. With the 1950s addition of Hungerford Drive as a bypass to Rockville’s commercial street, this is a busy intersection. It is arguably the symbolic cross-road for the county, and locals refer to it as “the mixing bowl” for its unconventional configuration and heavy volume of traffic. The church’s prominent location and its connection to author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is buried in its cemetery, contribute to St. Mary’s status as a landmark in Rockville.
Reed Brothers Dodge, 1915 One of the automaker’s first franchised car dealerships in the nation, opening in 1915, Reed Brothers Dodge was a longtime presence on the prominent triangle formed by the Rockville Pike and Veirs Mill Road. Also the first Gulf gas station in the DC area, it was a three generation business for 97 years. In recognition, the state of Maryland named the connector street behind the original location, “Dodge Street,” commemorating Reed Brothers’ presence from 1914-1970. When the state widened the roads in 1970, the dealership relocated to Route 355 at the Shady Grove Metro.
Montgomery County Court House, 1917 On September 28, 1917 a draft for World War I began and the first 40 men reported for duty at the Montgomery County Court House in Rockville. In the photo below, cars are parked around the court house during the speech-making in the court room to drafted men. Montgomery County’s first recruits left Rockville by train for Camp Meade, Maryland on this same day. They each received a package of smoking tobacco and a rousing send-off from two thousand people after speeches at the courthouse, dinner at the Montgomery House Hotel, and a parade to the depot. About 160 Rockville men served in the eighteen-month war. One of those men was Rockville resident, Edgar Reed. Edgar was fortunate enough to survive World War I and to settle back in Rockville and enjoy a successful life and career in the automobile business.
Notice that most of the cars in the photo have two license plates: at this time, you needed a separate tag to drive a car in the District of Columbia. There is also horse dung in the dirt road (E. Montgomery Avenue), suggesting buggies had been by recently as well. Barely visible in the background left is the Maryland National Bank building, which was demolished during urban renewal in the late 1960s.
First Montgomery County Police Department, 1922 Posing in front of Reed Brothers Dodge on July 4, 1922 Chief Charles Cooley, center, and his men of the first mounted unit of the Montgomery County Police Force, were on their first day of duty. For several years, since there was no police station, the officers would meet for “roll call” on the steps of the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville at 2:00 p.m. every day to let each other know they were alive and well. Chief Cooley was given the privilege of a Model T Ford. The chief was paid $1,800 a year (the chief now gets $112,564) while the officers got $1,500. Each of the officers was issued a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun, a black jack, law book and was allotted $300.00 a year for the upkeep of their motorcycle. Today, the Motor Unit fields twenty-eight 2007 and 2008 Harley-Davidson Police motorcycles of which four to five are assigned to each of the district stations.
Rockville Fair Dirt Track Oval, 1923 Like many fairgrounds, the Rockville Fairgrounds included an oval track. Fairground race tracks, typically one-mile or half-mile dirt racing ovals with wide, sweeping curves and grandstands for spectators, were easily adapted for bicycles, harness racing, and the sport of car racing. Harness racing was one of the main attractions, but after the introduction of the automobile in the early 20th century, car races took over. The fairgrounds were just outside Rockville, where Richard Montgomery High School is today. In 1946, after the construction of Richard Montgomery High School, the old oval race track became a football field and stadium.