Montgomery History has launched a new online exhibition 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, Daily Life, and Community). 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: Enjoy a vicarious getaway by exploring the newest section of the Lewis Reed Photography online exhibit, “Recreation”. View these amazing photos to see how Montgomery Countians in the first half of the 20th century enjoyed fun in the sun — beach trips, camping, fishing, vacationing, attending fairs, and more. You’ll find many summer activities have stood the test of time!
- Daily Life: What was domestic and social life like in Montgomery County at the turn of the century? Explore glimpses of early 19th century housing, education, social activities, entertainment, pets, and more in the “Daily Life” section.
- Community: Featured in the section are images of the businesses, industries, occupations, and services that provided income for Montgomery County’s residents, and shaped the growing towns in the first few decades of the 20th century.
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 close to 200 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, the African American Heritage Walking Tour Marker in Rockville, and the 19th Century Crossroads Marker in Darnestown. A Lewis Reed photo is also featured on a historical/interpretive sign along a trail in the Watters Smith Memorial State Park in West Virginia.
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.
The latest installment in my Then & Now series takes us to south of Montrose Road where the Tenallytown and Rockville Pike trolley line intersects with Rockville Pike. The black & white photo was taken by Lewis Reed in 1910. The corresponding color photo is a Google Maps image, more than 100 years later. Matching the photos was a bit difficult as the location has changed so much, but you get the idea.
The Tennallytown and Rockville Railroad, which opened in 1890, was an extension of the Georgetown & Tenallytown Railway. The street car line was extended to Rockville in 1900 terminating at the fairgrounds. During the fair each fall, traffic was so heavy that two-car trains were run to accommodate the crowds. Later a further extension was made through Rockville on Montgomery Avenue to the Chestnut Lodge Sanitarium on the far side of town. In 1935, the Rockville trolley line ceased operation, leaving gasoline-powered buses as the only mode of public transportation serving this corridor until the Metrorail Red Line opened in 1984.
THEN: Tenallytown and Rockville Pike Trolley Line, 1910
In this photograph dated 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.
NOW: The Bethesda Trolley Trail
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.
If there’s an historic wayside marker on the side of the road in Montgomery County, chances are, one of Lewis Reed’s images is on it. From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda is one of many markers in Montgomery County that feature images from Lewis Reed’s collection of photographs.
From Trolley to Trail Marker in Bethesda
Location: Marker is in Bethesda, Maryland and can be reached from Norfolk Avenue near Rugby Avenue.
Duplicate: Another nearly identical marker is located at the exit ramp from westbound Montrose Parkway to northbound Rockville Pike (MD 355).
Some of the earliest general merchandise stores in Montgomery County were located in Rockville, and on the roads leading to it. They were community-oriented businesses: the owners were friendly and knew all the locals. Day books kept by merchants at this time indicate they kept open accounts for their customers, allowing them to buy items on credit, and occasionally accepted payment of items in trade rather than currency. Toward the end of the century, some general stores found it more profitable to stop being “general” and specialized stores (selling only drugs, hardware, or farming equipment) became more common.
Rockville Business District, 1914
The heart of Rockville’s business district ran east-west on East Montgomery Avenue and Commerce Lane, spanning approximately eight blocks. Proximity to the courthouse influenced many hotels, professionals, and businesses to locate along East Montgomery Avenue, Commerce Lane (now West Montgomery Avenue), and Washington Street. Craftspeople and merchants often lived on the second story of their building or in a dwelling house next door.
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.
W. Hicks General Store, 1914
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.
H. Reisinger Bakery & Confectionary, 1914
Below: H. Reisinger Bakery, Confectionery, Ice Cream and Lunch Room, 5 and 10-cent Bargain Store on Montgomery Avenue, Rockville. Prices were very low– in 1899 and 1900 Reisinger’s regularly advertised bread for 4 cents a loaf– yet wages were low also.
From The Baltimore Sun, 22 Sep 1912, Help Wanted Section:
WANTED – A sober, reliable all-around CAKE BAKER and ICE CREAM MAKER for retail trade; $14 per week, board and lodging. H. REISINGER Rockville, Md.
General Store at Quince Orchard, 1906
A small school for white children was established on the northeast corner of Darnestown and Quince Orchard Roads around 1850. It was damaged during the Civil War and eventually burned down in 1873. The school was rebuilt on the same site in 1875 but was moved across the road next to Pleasant View Methodist Church in 1902 after the fire destroyed the school for black children. The General Store at Quince Orchard was built on the same site shortly after the school building was moved.
Windsor Store in Darnestown, Early 1900s
Mr James Windsor, grandfather of Curry England, opened the Windsor Store at the corner of Seneca and Darnestown Roads in approximately 1878. He operated the store for many years, and also served as Darnestown’s Postmaster for some 20 years. During the 1800s mail arrived three times a week by stagecoach from Rockville and local people gathered for the arrival, creating a regular social event. The Darnestown Post Office was discontinued in 1911. The Windsor building survived until 1969, when it caught fire and burned to the ground.
Downtown Germantown, ca. 1906
The original downtown Germantown was located at the intersection of Route 118 and Clopper Road. At the turn of the 20th century, most of the activity shifted to the railroad station and mill. General stores, a post office, a bank, and houses were constructed in this new downtown area. Everything from lengths of cloth to a medium rare steak could be purchased at the general store and post office on the right. Opposite the store were the mill and various small industries.
Halpine-Lenovitz General 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.
Clarksburg Main Street, 1913
In the early 20th century, Clarksburg was the third largest town in Montgomery County, after Rockville and Poolesville. Clarksburg had four general stores, two hotels, and an academy of learning. It also had a blacksmith, a doctor’s office, tanneries, shoemakers, winemakers, tailors, wheelwrights, fertilizer businesses, skilled farmers, master carpenters and two town bands.
Unknown General Store, Early 1900s
While every store was different, there were similarities among them, including a front door that was often decorated by tin signs advertising for tobacco, cigars, shoes, hardware, and more. The sign in front of this unidentified mercantile advertises Battle Axe Shoes, Stephen Putney Shoe Company. Usually, general 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.
J.F. Collins General Store, 1914
On a bleak night in February 1921, a pistol shot was fired while others yelled, “Fire!”. From John Collin’s store on East Montgomery Avenue — beloved by local children for Cracker Jacks and penny candy — flames reached toward the sky. Volunteers arrived with buckets while others operated the hose reels and hook and ladder truck. The main street was saved with help from men and equipment of Washington, D.C., but Collins’s store was a smouldering ruin. A few weeks later, fifty concerned townspeople elected officers of the newly formed Rockville Volunteer Fire Department.
Find photos like these and much more on Montgomery History’s online exhibit, “Montgomery County 1900-1930: Through the Lens of Lewis Reed“.
One of the deadliest tornadoes in American history hit Gainesville, Georgia on April 6, 1936. And Lewis Reed was there to capture the aftermath. On the 86th anniversary of this epic tornado, I have posted eleven original snippets of history that Lewis Reed captured through the lens of his camera that day.
It all started as part of a storm system that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5th, 1936. The Tupelo tornado, which registered as an F5 on the Fujita Scale, emerged from a complex system of storm cells and created a monster soon known as the fourth-deadliest tornado in U.S. history. It tore through houses, killed entire families and was even said to have left pine needles embedded into trunks of trees. One of the survivors of that storm in Tupelo was none other than a one-year-old Elvis Presley.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of that storm didn’t stop there. The system moved east overnight.
Take a look at some of the sobering aftermath photos of the deadliest tornado to ever hit Georgia … through the lens of Lewis Reed. As always, click the photos to get a better look.
The devastating tornado continued beyond Gainesville, next striking New Holland, about two miles to the east, where it heavily damaged the massive Pacolet Mill, a major producer of textiles (as well as nearly 100 homes). The Digital Library of Georgia states that the Pacolet Mill was heavily damaged. Remarkably, no one in the mill was injured, as the workers saw the storm coming and evacuated from the upper floors, then ran to the building’s northeast end which remained intact after the tornado struck. (They knew where to take refuge as a result of an earlier tornado which struck in 1903, killing about 50 people in the mill.) After extensive repairs, Pacolet Mill resumed operation.
The overall destruction was barely able to be tallied. Department stores collapsed killing dozens of people, residential areas were devastated with nearly 750 homes destroyed and more than 250 were badly damaged. Buildings caught fire, trapping people inside. It was even reported that the winds were so high that letters from Gainesville were blown almost 70 miles away and found in Anderson, South Carolina.
The death toll in Gainesville was officially 203, though some accounts place it higher. Property damage was in excess of $13 million dollars, or what would be $1.3 billion in damage by today’s standards. More than 1,600 persons were injured and more than 750 homes were damaged or destroyed. The storm that hit Gainesville on April 6, 1936 remains the fifth deadliest tornado in U.S. history. President Franklin Roosevelt toured the city three days later, and returned in 1938 to rededicate the courthouse and city hall after a massive citywide rebuilding effort.
Wikipedia – 1936 Tupelo–Gainesville tornado outbreak
The Digital Library of Georgia
Time passes, but the cherry blossoms always come back. Seeing the cherry blossoms is a time-honored D.C. tradition that dates back to 1912, when Tokyo gifted 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. in an act of friendship. While many of the original trees have been replaced, the Tidal Basin’s beauty has persisted for more than a century. Each spring, more than 1.5 million visitors descend upon Washington, D.C. each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees.
Here are “then and now” comparison shots of the Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. from 1930 and 2022.
Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (THEN): From Lewis Reed’s collection of photographs. Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin, circa 1930s with my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner.
Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin (NOW): The “now” photo is a google image of approximately the same location… some 90 years later. According to the National Park Service, DC’s 2022 cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom sometime between March 22-25. The best viewing of the cherry blossom trees typically lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins, but the blossoms can last for up to two weeks under ideal conditions.
Fun facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms
- The first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft. Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
- The first two trees were planted on the north bank of Tidal Basin in March 1912, and they still stand today. You can see them at the end of 17th Street Southwest, marked by a large plaque.
- It’s against the law to pick the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. While there aren’t any subtle wire fences or stern security guards like in a museum, any attempts to create your own corsage may very well land you a fine.
- The majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety. But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.
- The average lifespan of a cherry blossom tree is only 20 to 30 years, but nearly 100 of the original trees from 1912 still thrive at the Tidal Basin due to the maintenance of the National Park Service.
- No, they’re not all from 1912, reinforcements are sometimes necessary. New trees have been regularly planted, including in 1965, the late 1980s, 1999 and from 2002 to 2006, according to the NPS.
Organized with 51 men in 1921, the RVFD now has a diverse complement of over 270 volunteers supported by almost 100 Montgomery County career firefighters.
Source: Rockville VFD Website