Before the arrival of the first European settlers, the area that is now the City of Gaithersburg was a land of dense forests and gently rolling hills. Frederick Avenue was a well-traveled path for the Piscataway and Tuscarora Indians, who hunted the area's abundant wildlife. The region's landscape changed in the mid 1700's as the first settlers of European descent formed the beginnings of a new community. Several prominent land owners established plantations, and a handful of families formed a settlement known as Log Town. In the late 1700's, Benjamin Gaither settled on the property near the current intersection of Brookes and Frederick Avenues and established a blacksmith shop, store, and tavern to serve travelers and residents. His crossroads enterprise eventually became known as Gaithersburg. For many years, Gaithersburg was considered the last outpost of civilization in Montgomery County. More and more travelers traversed the route that was once a Native American trail and Frederick Avenue became a well-worn thoroughfare. As wagons required occasional repairs, and oxen, horses, and people needed respite, innkeepers, blacksmiths, and other tradesmen established businesses along the road.
In 1873, construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad through Gaithersburg was complete. The railroad brought a surge of people and businesses to communities all along the line, and Gaithersburg was no exception. In response to the population growth, the people of Gaithersburg drafted a charter, established a government, and incorporated as a city on April 5, 1878.
By the late 1880's, citizens of Gaithersburg were able to travel and move their wares by train. Fueled by this new and efficient form of transportation, the town's economy and population continued to expand. Gaithersburg's mercantile center shifted from Frederick Avenue to Diamond Avenue, along the train tracks and near the train station. In 1891, more than a dozen trains ran through Gaithersburg daily. The accessibility of the railroad soon transformed Gaithersburg from a sleepy rural town into what many Washingtonians considered a growing commercial center and a preferred summer resort.
(Photo caption): Two opposite views along the railroad tracks, circa 1900