25 Historical Photos of Rockville Through the Lens of Lewis Reed

What makes Rockville such an interesting place? It’s interesting history! 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.

A bit of Rockville history: More than 250 years ago, land grants to European settlers formed the nucleus for today’s Rockville, Maryland. By the 1750s local farmers were transporting tobacco to market in Georgetown down a road formerly used by Indians. The tiny settlement was designated as the seat of the new Montgomery County in 1776. Known as Rockville by 1803, the town’s life centered on Courthouse activity. More homes and shops were built, and the town of nearly 600 was incorporated in 1860. The dynamics that created Rockville in the 18th and 19th centuries are still the same ones attracting newcomers today: the presence of county government, a favorable location close to the nation’s capital, converging transportation routes that bring people here, and identity as an independent municipality.

Take a journey back in time through the lens of Lewis Reed and see what Rockville looked like more than hundred years ago.

Woodlawn Hotel/Chestnut Lodge, Early 1900s

Chestnut Lodge was a focal point on historic West Montgomery Avenue. Opened as a luxury hotel in 1889 for Washingtonians seeking to escape the city’s summer heat, the 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. It was then sold to a nonprofit health corporation but it closed only three later. 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.

Woodlawn Hotel/Chestnut Lodge

Woodlawn Hotel/Chestnut Lodge. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville B&O Railroad Station, Early 1900s

Built in 1873, the 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, or in horse-drawn carriages. Some wives took their commuting husbands to the station in a 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.

Rockville B&O Train Station

Rockville B&O Train Station early 1900s. On the left, a horse-drawn carriage has just left the station. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.

Halpine-Lenovitz General Store at Rockville Pike and Halpine Road. Photo taken by Lewis Reed, circa 1906

Rockville’s First Water Tower, 1906

The pipestem 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 the 1890s, Rockville grew both as a resort and as a town. With substantial residential appeal, the need for services grew. 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. The chimney stack originally extended to a height of 50’, as documented in the Sanborn maps 1908, 1915.

Rockville's First Water Tower

1906 historic view of Rockville’s first pipestem water tower (1897-1946). Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Water Tower 1906

Rockville Tower at Rockville Grade Crossing Baltimore Road 1906. Photo by Lewis Reed

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.

Historic Montrose School, 1909

Montrose School, 1909. Photo by Lewis Reed

Tenallytown and Rockville Pike Trolley Line, 1910

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.

In this photograph, a trolley heads south from Rockville toward Tenallytown through open farmland. This view, south of Montrose Road where it intersects with Rockville Pike, shows the Villa Roma restaurant in the foreground and the Pike in the background. The Villa Roma was built in 1902 for Herman and Lucia Hollerith who founded the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became IBM, Inc. It was sold in 1912 and again in 1926, when the main building became the Villa Roma. The restaurant closed after the Depression and the property was sold several more times.

1910 trolley car

A trolley heads south from Rockville toward Tenallytown through open farmland. This view appears to be looking north and shows the area south of where Montrose Road intersects with Rockville Pike. The Pike is in the background. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1910

Veirs Mill, 1910

The original Veirs Mill was built by Samuel Clark Veirs sometime after 1838 on the 400 acre farm which Veirs acquired in that year about two miles south of Rockville, on Rock Creek; the farm was part of an original land grant called “Prevention”. The sixth mill to be built on Rock Creek, Veirs Mill operated for approximately 80 years. The mill is identified as “Rock Creek Mills” and was located to what is now the intersection of Aspen Hill and Veirs Mill Roads.

Veirs Mill

The mill on Rock Creek south of Viers Mill Road operated from 1838-1880. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1910.

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. A new high school was constructed and opened for use in September 1905 on East Montgomery Avenue and Monroe Street. An addition was built in 1917, expanding the school to 19 classrooms. The school was renamed Richard Montgomery High School 1935.

Montgomery County High School 1911

1911 Originally known as Montgomery County High School, later as Rockville High School. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville High School, 1911

Rockville High School, 1911. Photo by Lewis Reed

Veirs Mill Road, 1911

The popularity of the car coincided with the improvement of public roads around Rockville. Rockville Pike’s reputation as “one of the worst pieces of main highway in the state” helped initiate Maryland’s Good Roads Movement. Responding to citizen demands, the newly created State Roads Commission incorporated the Pike into the state highway system. By 1929, when Montgomery County residents owned 13,000 cars, the Pike and Montgomery Avenue had been paved, but less traveled Veirs Mill Road remained a narrow dirt road for decades.

Veirs Mill Road Rockville 1911

Veirs Mill Road looking east prior to paving. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1911

Montgomery County Almshouse, 1912

A Poor Farm in Montgomery County? Yep. Although a lot of people have never heard of “poor farms,” they were once common across the nation. Various terms have been used to describe the “house for the poor,” and often the titles were unique to the part of the country where the house was located.

This is the Almshouse (aka Poor Farm). The 50-acre tract which includes the 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.

Although the county’s poor farm existed for almost 170 years, virtually nothing has been documented about it, said Jane Sween, a librarian with the Montgomery County Historical Society. The property was deeded to the county in 1789 and expanded in 1825. After the Civil War, the farm’s almshouse was rebuilt, and until it was razed a century later it was home to an average of 40 indigent people, she said. The state paid for burial but did not pay for grave markers or upkeep on the property.

The Montgomery County Poor Farm Cemetery is no longer in existence. The National Park Service conducted an archaeological dig in 1987, which resulted in the removal of 38 bodies to Parklawn Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. Montgomery County sold the land to a private developer.

Montgomery County Almshouse 1912

The Montgomery County Maryland Almshouse aka Poor Farm was established in 1789 and torn down in 1959. A modern jail is on its site on Seven Locks Road near Falls Road. Photo by Lewis Reed, circa 1912

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.

Rockville Pump House 1912

The Pump House at Croydon Park, 1912. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Town Hall, 1912

Rockville Town Hall was incorporated in 1881 to “improve the educational, moral, scientific, literary and social condition of the community. Stock sold at ten dollars per share raised most of the six thousand dollars needed to erect a handsome two-story brick building on Montgomery Avenue. The Town Hall opened on Tuesday evening, July 18,1882. For the next half century, the Town Hall operated as a small-town cultural center, with a four hundred-seat auditorium on the second floor, a stage, balcony, and dressing rooms, a ticket office on the lower level and seven leased offices. The community used the facility for visiting lectures, theatrical and musical performances, dances, and other suitable “instruction and amusement”.

Rockville Twon Hall 1912

Rockville Town Hall. 1912. Photo by Lewis Reed

Vinson’s Drug Store, 1912

Vinson’s Drug Store was built in the 1880s and was run by Robert William “Doc” Vinson from 1900 until his death in 1958. he store had previously been owned and/or operated by several men, including D.F. Owens and E.T. Fearon. A document on the Rockville website says the drugstore was also a popular gathering place for city politicians, and that President Woodrow Wilson once personally traveled there to buy Wolfhound tablets.

Vinson's Pharmacy Rockville 1912

Vinson’s Pharmacy Rockville 1912. Photo by Lewis Reed

Fearon's Pharmacy Rockville 1912

Fearon’s Pharmacy (as named in the window, also Owen’s and Vinson’s at other times. L. to R. Tom Talbott, Wardlow Mason, Otho Talbott, unknown, Dr. Fearon. Photo by Lewis Reed

Montgomery House Hotel, 1913

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.

Montgomery House Hotel 1912

Montgomery House Hotel and Confederate Monument, 1913. Photo by Lewis Reed.

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.

Zion A.M.E. Church Rockville 1912

Zion A.M.E. Church, Rockville, 1912. Photo by Lewis Reed

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 bank building replaced the church and parsonage in 1974.

Rockville Baptist Church 1912

Rockville Baptist Church, 1912. Photo by Lewis Reed

Red Brick Courthouse, 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.

Rockville Courthouse 1914

Rockville Courthouse, 1914. Photo by Lewis Reed

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, Maryland. In the photograph 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.

Montgomery County Court House 1917

Montgomery County Court House 1917. Note two tags on the cars; it was necessary to have DC as well as Maryland tags if the car was to be driven in DC. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1917.

Court House Triangle, 1917

When originally dedicated in 1913, the Confederate Statue stood in the triangular public park across East Montgomery Avenue in front of the Red Brick Courthouse. In the triangle along with the Confederate Monument was a kiosk which contained the weather report. When downtown Rockville was redesigned in 1971, the statue was moved to the courthouse grounds. The white house behind the Confederate Statue is the yard of W. Guy Hicks and to the right just out of the picture is the Montgomery House Hotel.

Court House Triangle Rockville

Court House Triangle, 1917. Photo by Lewis Reed

The 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. Jones patrolled Silver Spring, Rodgers the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area and Burdine, Clagett and Gaither the Upper County areas.

The officers worked 14 hours at night, 10 hours in the day, with two days off every two weeks. But they were on call at all times. Since there was no mobile radio contact (the first one-way radio system was installed in cars in the early 1930s), the officers tended to hang around the courthouse or a local firehouse that had a phone.

One of the officers came up with the idea of placing a flashing red beacon light on a pole atop the Rockville courthouse. When flashing, it would alert police that they had a call or were wanted at the office. In 1927, similar lights were used at district stations in Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Montgomery County Police Department

This photograph is the first known photograph of the entire MCPD. Pictured left to right: Earl Burdine, Lawrence Clagett, Guy Jones, Chief Charles Cooley, Leroy Rodgers, and Oscar Gaither. Photo by Lewis Reed

Rockville Fair Auto Races, 1923

Early action shots like these are rare, however, the following photographs were taken by Lewis Reed at the Rockville Fairgrounds in 1923. The photos are from the first incarnation of the Fair, held by the Montgomery County Agricultural Society (1846-1932) in Rockville and often known simply as the “Rockville Fair.”

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.

Rockville Fair Auto Races 1923

Rockville Fair Auto Races 1923. Photo by Lewis Reed

Auto races Rockville Fair 1923

Dusty Action – 1923 photo of the exciting auto races at Rockville Fair. Five racers are just coming around the bend on this dirt track with their tires spinning up dust in their wake. Photo by Lewis Reed

 

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

3 responses to “25 Historical Photos of Rockville Through the Lens of Lewis Reed”

  1. Patrick Kernan says :

    Great stuff Jeanne.

  2. Paul Wilson says :

    First let me say I really like and enjoy your Lewis Reed collection of photographs and all of your postings. About your posting/picture “Tenallytown and Rockville Pike Trolley Line 1910”, that’s not the “Villa Roma” in the picture. Herman Hollerith’s summer home was a massive two-story hip-roofed structure with adjoining wings, and a front porch/deck with a central columned balcony entrance. It did not become the “Villa Roma” until 1926, when Frank Abbo bought it and turned it into a restaurant and nightclub. The building that is in the foreground of the picture is a barn/garage structure, which could be one of the out buildings on the property.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Hi Paul, I appreciate your stopping by and pointing out my mistake. I will definitely correct the caption. I was trying to remember the source for the caption and it is actually from Bethesda Trolley Trail Wayside Marker, which you can find here: https://www.hmdb.org/Photos2/228/Photo228519o.jpg

      I am always surprised at what I do not know and what I learn from new information.

      I’m so glad you enjoy reading my blog and thanks again for visiting!

      My Best Regards
      Jeanne

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