Then & Now: Clarksburg Main Street, 1913
This post is a continuation of a series of “Then & Now” images from Lewis Reed’s Photo Collection alongside photographs of how they appear today. Lewis Reed worked hard to preserve a visual history of Montgomery County, Maryland and surrounding area long before automobiles were even around. As early as 1910, he toured on his motorcycle across the state of Maryland and took photographs of many historic locations. Taken approximately 109 years apart, these photos takes us back in time to Clarksburg, Maryland at the intersection of the main road between Georgetown and Frederick and an old Seneca trail. The corresponding color photo is a google maps screenshot from the same location more than a century later.
CLARKSBURG MAIN STREET (THEN): 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.
The black and white image was taken by Lewis Reed in 1913, where Clarksburg Road (to Boyds) met Frederick Road (Rt 355). Frederick Road has also been known as The Georgetown Road and the Great Road. The town of Clarksburg was laid out along Frederick Road. The road was used as the stagecoach line from Frederick to Georgetown and it remains as the present main street through Clarksburg. Turning wagon ruts/tire tracks are visible in the lower left corner. The first house on the right was the Horace Willson House (still standing). Left of the Willson house was Willson’s Store, built on the site of the town’s first trading post, established by town founder John Clark (still standing). Established April 1, 1800, this was the location of the first post office in Clarksburg, the second oldest in Montgomery County. In 1842, the old trading post building was replaced with a two-story general store. The dwelling beyond the pole served as a church parsonage (still standing) and just beyond stands the Clarksburg United Methodist Church. The church was used for church dinners, 4-H meetings, and community gatherings. The vehicle appears to be a very early Ford Model T.
CLARKSBURG MAIN STREET (NOW): Over 109 years have passed and three buildings in Lewis Reed’s photo still remain. The structure on the right in the current day photo below was the Lewis General Store and the yellow vacant house a little further down the road was the church parsonage. The recently renovated Lewis General Store received an award for best restoration of a historic commercial property from the county. The charming building boasts a tin ceiling, original counters; original beams from 1750 are exposed in some areas, wood floors, and many historic details throughout. The steps to the ME Church South are still visible today on Rt 335 near where it intersects with Spire Street (about where the car is in the image). The congregation claims to be the “oldest continuous Methodist congregation in Montgomery County”. Today, Clarksburg remains a small rural town, retaining many of its 19th century structures. It is among Montgomery County’s earliest, most intact historic towns.
Due to the Clarksburg Square Road extension that now connects to Frederick Road, the Horace Willson House was relocated approximately 70 feet to the south to preserve it. The building is currently a wine and beer shop.
Sources of Information:
Joan Edwards Ruff, Resident of Clarksburg for 45 years and granddaughter of Lillian and Elwood Barr
“The History of Clarksburg, King’s Valley, Purdum, Browningsville and Lewisdale Maryland” by Dona L. Cuttler
MHT Inventory Form13-10 Clarksburg Historic District
Some of the Earliest Occupations in Montgomery County
Do you know what a Qwylwryghte, a Stock Maker, or a Hackneyman does? These are some of the old occupations, of which many are archaic, that may show up on old documents relating to our ancestors. Some of the occupations do not exist today or are called other names. Below you can find representations of many varied occupations that Montgomery County residents engaged in during the early 20th Century, though the list is not at all comprehensive.
A qwylwryghte — don’t ask me to pronounce it! — is one who makes wheels, or works with wood.
Formerly located on Darnestown Road near the intersection of Seneca Road, Philip Reed operated a blacksmith, wheelwright, and cabinet making business next to his home. These occupations overlapped due to the similar skills they required: the same metal-working tools that were used for horseshoeing could be used to make wheel-rims and other metal wagon parts; the same woodworking skills that created wagons could be used to make pieces of furniture for the home. As late as 1910, there were still approximately 60 blacksmith shops in the county.
From the June 13, 1940 edition of The Montgomery County Sentinel:
We also read that Philip Reed built up great fame for the town as a maker of gun stocks for sportsmen – he was the father of the Reed Brothers, our local auto dealers. Edgar Reed tells us his grandfather was a cabinet maker and wood carver, but that the wood working talent no longer seems to run in the family.
A Stock Maker carves gun stocks from wood (usually walnut) and fits them to the metal parts of the gun (receiver and barrel). Very high grade firearms may have stocks fashioned from very costly blanks, mostly of one of the walnut varieties, specially chosen for its rare and highly figured grain. The fashioning of high end gun stocks calls for an extremely high level of skill and craftsmanship.
The meaning of Hackneyman is a man who hires out horses and carriages.
Closely related to the blacksmithing and wheelwrighting industry, the livery-stable keeper provided horses that were used in everyday tasks and transportation. The liveryman boarded horses for rent and also provided carriages and wagons. Compared to our modern world, the blacksmith-wheelwright correlates to the auto repair shop, and the livery to the car rental business.
At the turn of the century, teaching was one of the only respectable fields open to educated women who wanted to work. Many unmarried women worked as teachers during the 1900s, and in the early days, they were often required to leave the profession once they were married. The 1920 census indicates that Lewis Reed’s wife, Ethelene (pictured above), was a teacher in the Maryland public school system until her daughter Mary Jane was born in 1922.
Most people wouldn’t consider the months of January and February a season of harvest in Darnestown, Maryland. But in our not so distant past, this was harvest time for—ICE. Rivers, lakes and ponds are generally frozen and ice was harvested like a winter crop to keep food cold all summer long. Before modern refrigeration, ice for refrigeration was obtained organically through a process called “ice harvesting.” Ice cutters would risk their lives going out with saws, tongs, and pitchforks to methodically cut and drag blocks of ice from a nearby frozen pond. Those blocks would then be stored in hay-packed ice houses, later distributed throughout towns and cities during the heat of summer. However, people did not put ice in their drinks as we do now. The possibility of debris having been in the water as it froze – even a bug now and then – discouraged the idea.
The cash register was invented in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s almost every retail organization had one. Store owners sometimes conducted business with their customers, but the more lucrative establishments would hire one or more clerks as assistants to interact with the public. By 1915, more than half of all clerical workers tended to be young women.
Chauffeur-mechanics of the early 1900s were the first group to earn a living working on automobiles. At the dawn of the early 20th century, society was transitioning from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. Having grown up in a blacksmith family, Lewis Reed was well positioned to move to the new technology. The 1910 census indicated that 23-year-old Lewis Reed was working as a machinist. Lewis Reed worked as a chauffeur from roughly 1910-1914, before he became involved in the business of selling and repairing automobiles.
Motorman and Conductors
The debut of Rockville’s trolley cars in 1900 marked the beginning of a golden age of local mass transit. Each car had a two-man crew (a conductor and a motorman) one to operate the car and the other to collect fares.
A mill is a building equipped with machinery that processes a raw material such as grain, wood, or fiber into a product such as flour, lumber, or fabric. In the 18th and 19th centuries, mills were powered by water in creeks or rivers. In a flour mill, water flowing over the mill wheel was converted by gears into the power to turn one of two burr stones. Kernels of wheat were then ground between the two stones. The grinding removed bran (the outer husk) from the wheat kernel, and then crushed the inner kernel into flour.* Flour mills were an important part of rural communities across the country, including Montgomery County, and millers were respected members of their community.
Above is a photograph of three men in suits pumpkin picking in Thomas Kelley’s field of pumpkins in Pleasant Hills, circa 1920. Tom Kelly farmed much of the land around the Pleasant Hills homestead and was famous for his “Kelly Corn” farm wagon of fresh dairy produce during the summer months, as well as the corn that fed visitors to the Montgomery County Fair each August and, of course, his pumpkin patch in the fall.The turn of the century was a time of transition, and the families who went from horses to tractor horsepower witnessed the birth of mechanization on the farm. The newest farm machinery to hit the market near the turn of the 20th century were traction engines powered by steam; essentially the predecessor to today’s modern farm tractor. They could plow, they could haul, and you could put a big belt on the fly wheel and drive a saw mill. The engines would normally run on coal, wood, or even straw: whatever would sustain a fire.
Steam helped improve the efficiency of most farm chores, including plowing, planting and harvesting. And steam-powered equipment also was used for other heavy duty tasks, including rock crushing and wood cutting, to aid in clearing the land. Francis A. Flack (1875-1961), a life-long resident of Montgomery County, was a successful farmer in the lower section of the county near Garrett Park. The work depicted below–sawing felled trees into usable lumber–took place on his farm in 1909. Flack is pictured in the lower left photo.
I remember that engine as though I had seen it only yesterday, for it was the first vehicle other than horse drawn that I had ever seen. It was intended to drive threshing machines and power sawmills and was simply a portable engine and a boiler mounted on wheels.
It was the steam traction engine that inspired Ford to design and manufacture automobiles. By the early 1930s, gasoline-powered farm equipment, evolved from the automobile industry, had mostly replaced steam powered machines.
Road Worker (Heavy Equipment Operator)
Building a road requires moving earth and rocks, leveling the roadbed and digging trenches for drainage ditches. These tasks fell to those who operated the large steam-powered excavating machines and steam shovels. Pictured above are rare, historical photographs that Lewis Reed took of the construction of Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC as it was being graded in 1912. (click on thumbnails to view gallery)
A steam shovel is a large steam-powered excavating machine designed for lifting and moving large amounts of heavy material such as rock and soil. Steam shovels played a major role in public works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When digging at a rock face, the operator simultaneously raises and extends the dipper stick to fill the bucket with material. When the bucket is full, the shovel is rotated to load the railway car. Steam shovels usually had a three-man crew: engineer, fireman and ground man.
Gallery of Early 20th Century General Stores in Montgomery County
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“.
Then & Now: Washington’s Cherry Blossoms
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.
Life Before Ice in Montgomery County (1910)
Got ice? Usually, we don’t think about ice very often, unless there’s none in the freezer. Before the first successful ice-making machines were built, ice for refrigeration was obtained through a process called “ice harvesting.” Ice cutters used to risk their lives by going out onto frozen ponds with saws, tongs, and pitchforks and methodically cut and dragged blocks of ice which would be stored in hay-packed ice houses. But people did not put ice in drinks as we do now. The possibility of debris having been in the water as it froze – even a bug now and then – discouraged the idea.
Ice houses were dug into the ground to keep the temperature low; double-thick walls were often filled with sawdust for further insulation, and the blocks themselves were packed in sawdust or straw. When you wanted some ice for drinks or to make ice cream, you wouldn’t pull out a whole block; ice picks, chisels, hatchets and shavers were used to get just what you needed.
I’m not exactly sure what the structure is in the middle of the pond, but “google” said it could be an outlet structure to keep the water surface in the pond at its optimum level, which usually coincides with the maximum water level designed for the pond. If anyone knows exactly what it is, please leave a comment.
From The Evening Star, Washington, D.C. December 22, 1904
ROCKVILLE AND VICINITY GENERAL NEWS
The cold weather of the past ten days has frozen the ponds and creeks throughout this county to a thickness of six or seven inches, and the ice harvesting is now the order of the day. The quality of the ice is not regarded as first-class, however, and for this reason many persons will defer filling their houses until later in the winter.
Next time you drop a few ice cubes into a glass or take out a frozen piece of meat from the freezer, perhaps give a momentary thought to how much we take for granted the ability to have ice cold drinks, preserved foods that can be stored for months, ice cream, cold frothy beer, and so many perishable food products. Refrigeration is a modern convenience that we just can’t live without and certainly one that I take for granted … or took for granted until I wrote this!