Tag Archive | Then & Now photography

Then & Now: Smithsonian Institution Castle

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 1905, he toured on his motorcycle across the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and took photographs of many historic locations. Taken approximately 115 years apart, you can see how the Smithsonian Institution Castle looks both the same and completely different from over a century ago.

Smithsonian Institution Castle (THEN): The Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the “Castle,” was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. Initially, the Castle was intended to be built in white marble and then in yellow sandstone. The architect and the building committee finally agreed on using Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca Quarry, located in Montgomery County, Maryland. When it was completed in 1855, it sat on an isolated piece of land cut off from downtown Washington, DC, by a canal. In the ensuing decades, the Castle became the anchor for the National Mall, as additional museums and government buildings were constructed around it.

Smithsonian Castle 1907

Smithsonian Institution Castle. Photo taken by Lewis Reed in 1907

Smithsonian Institution Castle (NOW): The same view over a century later. The Smithsonian Institution Castle, located near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. behind the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery, houses the Smithsonian Institution’s administrative offices and information center.

Smithsonian Institution Castle

Smithsonian Institution Castle today

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.

1930s DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin with my mother, Mary Jane (Reed) Gartner. Photo by Lewis Reed, ca. 1930

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.

DC Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin today.

The 2022 Festival, March 20 – April 17, includes four weeks of events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. You can read the announcement with details here.
BloomCam is a 24/7, live, real-time view of the cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Positioned on the roof of the Mandarin Oriental, BloomCam offers year-round views of the cherry trees and their seasonal changes to viewers worldwide and is highlighted here during Bloom Watch as we await the peak blooms.

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.

Bromo-Seltzer Tower: Then & Now

Baltimore and the surrounding area sure has changed a lot in its centuries-long history. But many traditions and landmarks from decades ago are still around today, give or take a few variations. In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”. In the following photographs, you can see the difference 100 years can make.

So… you’re the inventor of a popular headache remedy living in the city of Baltimore around 1910. You have a factory on Lombard Street, a few blocks from the harbor. You want to create something memorable for the city. Of course, you also want to promote that headache remedy…

What do you do?

If you are Captain Isaac Emerson, inventor of Bromo-Seltzer, you hire a well-known architect and build a massive clock tower next to your factory.

Bromo-Seltzer Tower (THEN): When it was built in 1911, the 15-story Emerson Tower—better known locally as the Bromo-Seltzer Tower—was the tallest building in Baltimore. The tower was inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, and took its name from Captain Isaac Edward Emerson, the inventor of Bromo-Seltzer, a popular cure for headaches and indigestion. Until 1936, the tower was topped by a 51-foot illuminated Bromo-Seltzer bottle that was supposedly visible from twenty miles away.

Bromo-Seltzer Tower 1914

Bromo-Seltzer Tower, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1914

Bromo-Seltzer Tower (NOW): The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower has been transformed into studio spaces for visual and literary artists. Inside the Tower is the Emerson/Maryland Glass Museum which houses the largest collection of Bromo Seltzer and Maryland Glass bottles in existence. The Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Bromo Seltzer Tower

Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower today


Then & Now: Historic Mathias Point Lighthouse

“Then and Now” photos are an excellent way to explore the passage of time. In this special post, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and matched it with a corresponding contemporary shot for “now”. Taken approximately 50 years apart, these photos show Mathias Point Lighthouse, then and now.

Mathias Point Lighthouse (THEN): 

Mathias Point Lighthouse was placed at the edge of a shoal jutting out from a major bend in the Potomac River. This point was considered one of the most dangerous navigation problems on the river. In the summer of 1873, the United States naval steamer Frolic went ashore and remained grounded for over two weeks. It was eventually floated out at a cost of nearly $6,000. After much debate in Congress, $40,000 was finally appropriated in 1874. Originally, a day beacon was approved for Mathias Point and light for Port Tobacco Flats. After a delay of almost two years, the two sites were switched.

Plans were drawn up for Mathias Point and the design was like no other screwpile on the Bay. The design included 3 levels, unlike the other 2-level cottages on the Bay. It had a large second floor and smaller third floor which resulted in a “wedding cake” profile. It also had an unusual amount of ornate detailed woodwork. The pilings were angled inward to the base of the lighthouse, which was also different from other screwpile designs. The house was white with a brown roof and green shutters. Construction started in September 1876 and commissioned December 20, 1876.

The light was automated in 1951 and was monitored by the keeper of Maryland Point Light. In 1961 the light was decommissioned the beautiful lighthouse at Mathias Point was dismantled.

Mathias Point Lighthouse 1915

Mathias Point Light, Potomac River, near the Port Tobacco River, Maryland. Photo by Lewis Reed, 1915.

Mathias Point Lighthouse (NOW): The current light is a steel tower on the original screwpile supports and displays a 44-foot high, 6 second flashing green light. The current light can be viewed from the Mt. Bethel Recreation Center at Mathias Point in Virginia. As of 2020, it is still an active aid to navigation.

Mathias Point Lighthouse

Mathias Point Light in the Potomac River in Maryland is no longer standing, now a beacon.

Then & Now: The Tomb of Washington

In this “Then & Now” feature, I have combined one of Lewis Reed’s original photograph’s for “then” and paired it with a Google composite image to show how The Tomb of Washington has transformed over the years.

THEN: George Washington died in his bedchamber at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. His last will outlined his desire to be buried at home at Mount Vernon. Washington additionally made provisions for a new brick tomb to be constructed after his death, which would replace the original yet quickly deteriorating family burial vault. In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb, along with the remains of Martha Washington and other family members. 

George Washingtons Tomb Mt Vernon

George Washington’s at Tomb Mount Vernon, Virginia. Photo by Lewis Reed

NOW: Today, the gently wooded enclosure that surrounds the Washingtons’ final resting place is a lovely, fitting space to pay homage to the Father of Our Country and the first First Lady.

Tomb of Washington, Mt Vernon earyl 1900s

A composite image of the tomb today.

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