By the mid-20th century, Bethesda offered "101 services which a thriving suburban community needs." In the downtown commercial district, savvy shoppers found specialized shops, department stores, movie theaters, florists, medical offices, restaurants and car dealerships, lots of them. Estimates suggest that there was one car for every three Americans by 1960 — a staggering number considering the cost of an automobile represented 45% of the average household income.
As the "Gateway to the Nation's Capital," federal employees made Bethesda their home and commuted to work in Washington, D.C. To accommodate these consumers, at least seventeen car dealerships operated between the late 1930s until 1965. Families could select American makers, such as Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge, or purchase vehicles made overseas, including Saab, Volkswagen, and Porsche. By the late 1980s, the foreign car market expanded with the inclusion of Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota. While many of these dealerships were long Wisconsin Avenue, what was known as U.S. 240, showrooms were spread throughout down Bethesda as were service stations, garages and body
The area began to see an increased reliance on public transportation in the mid-1980s, particularly after the opening of the Red Line that runs to the Bethesda Metro Station. Still, car ownership remains one of the more tangible means of living "the American Dream." Today's consumer can frequent established dealerships in Bethesda and find new environmentally friendly vehicles and hybrids and visit new(er) showrooms for minivans and SUVs that have overtaken the once popular family sedan.
When photographer Hugo Brooks was at the end of his film, he contacted local car dealerships and arranged for the vendors to put the shiniest car on the lot where brooks recorded them in black and white for posterity. His images here date to the 1940s.
Strategic marketing, such as hosting the traveling circus, brought people to the downtown car dealerships.
Erected by Montgomery Parks.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1960.
Location. 38° 58.844′
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Georgetown Branch Railroad (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Madonna of the Trail (approx. ¼ mile away); In Loving Memory of Robert W. Lebling (approx. ¼ mile away); Five Points, historic crossroads (approx. 0.3 miles away); Looking North up Wisconsin Avenue at Old Georgetown Road in 1940 (approx. 0.3 miles away); The First Building for the Bethesda Fire Department (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Bank of Bethesda Building (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Georgetown Road (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bethesda.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 27, 2021. This page has been viewed 52 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 27, 2021.