Happy Birthday Lewis Reed!
Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. When Lewis Reed opened his car dealership in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. He founded what would become the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in the state of Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.
In 1914, Lewis Reed became a partner in Rockville Garage, a business he purchased in 1918. His brother Edgar joined the business in 1919 upon his return from World War I, and the name became Reed Brothers Dodge. Lewis Reed was the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland and his company was the first Gulf gas dealer in the Washington, D.C. area. During the early years, Reed Brothers represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Oldsmobile, Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1923.
Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson along with Dodge. The first Plymouth was built in 1928 and Plymouths were sold at Reed Brothers from 1930 until 1969, when the Plymouth car was given to the Chrysler dealers. In 1928, when Walter P. Chrysler took over after Horace and John Dodge died, Lewis Reed became an original member of the Chrysler family. By 1929, when the stock market crashed and Great Depression began, nobody could afford to buy cars. Like most other businesses, the Great Depression hit hard and Reed Brothers had to rely on its Service Department to make ends meet.
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. He received his automotive training at the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, and the Washington Auto College.
When World War I broke out, Lewis Reed along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He did his bit in World War I by working at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.
Lewis Reed was very active in his community and in his church. He was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church, where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a Lay Leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was a charter member and Past President (Feb 1933 – Feb 1937) of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. Lewis Reed belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalph Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.
Active in the dealership daily until the day of his death, Lewis Reed died on January 28, 1967 at the age of 79. Shortly after his death, the Senate of Maryland passed SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 10 honoring the well-known Rockville automobile dealer for his personality and outstanding contributions. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. Anderson, Jr and Senator Louise Gore. At the time of his death, he was in negotiations with the State Roads Commission on the Commission’s proposal to take over a portion of his business property for construction of an interchange at Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive and Veirs Mill Road.
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.
When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what Lewis Reed faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. Reed Brothers Dodge occupied two locations, the original at the Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike intersection and the second at 15955 Frederick Road in front of the Shady Grove Metro.
Lewis Reed set an outstanding example through his success, but more importantly through his sacrifices and commitment to the community he served. Today, Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments pays homage to the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland with commemorative art on the former site of the iconic Reed Brothers dealership.