Howard County, Maryland

Howard County, Maryland

Howard County, Maryland
The Howard County Courthouse in May 2008
Flag of Howard County, Maryland
Seal of Howard County, Maryland
Map of Maryland highlighting Howard County
Location in the state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location in the U.S.
Founded 1838
Named for John Eager Howard
Seat Ellicott City
Largest community Columbia
 • Total 253 sq mi (655 km2)
 • Land 251 sq mi (650 km2)
 • Water 2.7 sq mi (7 km2), 1.0%
 • (2010) 287,085
 • Density 1,145/sq mi (442/km²)
Congressional districts 2nd, 3rd, 7th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website .gov.howardcountymdwww

Howard County is a county located in the central part of the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 287,085.[1] Its county seat is Ellicott City.[2]

Howard County is included in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA Combined Statistical Area. However, recent development in the south of the county has led to some realignment towards the Washington, D.C. media and employment markets. The county is home to Columbia, a major planned community of approximately 100,000 founded by developer James Rouse in 1967.

Howard County is frequently cited for its affluence, quality of life, and excellent schools. With an estimated median household income of $108,844 in 2012, Howard County had the second-highest median household income of any U.S. county in 2013.[3] Many of the most affluent communities in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, such as Clarksville, Dayton, Glenelg, Glenwood and West Friendship, are located along the Route 32 corridor in Howard County. The main population center of Columbia/Ellicott City was named second among Money magazine's 2010 survey of "America's Best Places to Live."[4] Howard County's schools frequently rank first in Maryland as measured by standardized test scores and graduation rates.[5]

In 2010, the center of population of Maryland was located in the Howard County town of Jessup.[6]


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Geography 3
    • Adjacent counties 3.1
    • Climate 3.2
  • Demographics 4
    • 2010 4.1
    • 2000 4.2
  • Education 5
    • Library 5.1
  • Politics and government 6
    • County Commissioners 6.1
    • County Executives and Council Members 6.2
    • Departments 6.3
  • Economy 7
  • Awards 8
  • Culture and attractions 9
  • Transportation 10
    • Airports 10.1
    • Public transportation 10.2
    • Roads 10.3
  • Communities 11
    • Census-designated places 11.1
    • Unincorporated communities 11.2
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


The name of the county honors Colonel John Eager Howard,[7] an officer in the "Maryland Line" of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, commander notably at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina in 1781, among others. He was the fifth governor of Maryland from 1788 to 1791. His home was the mansion "Belvedere", located at the present-day intersection of East Chase and North Calvert streets, north of Baltimore Town in an area also called "Howard's Woods", where Baltimore's Washington Monument was later erected and the neighborhood of Mount Vernon was developed in the 1820s.[8] The county's nickname of "HoCo" is derived from a contraction of the words "Howard" and "County".


The lands of prehistoric Howard County were populated by Native Americans. The Maryland Historical Trust has documented sites along the Patapsco, Patuxent, Middle and Little Patuxent River valleys.[9] In 1652, the Susquehannock tribes signed a peace treaty with Maryland, giving up their provenance over the territory that is now Howard County.[10] In 1800, the mean center of U.S. population as calculated by the US Census Bureau was found in what is now Howard County.[11]

In 1838, Dr. William Watkins of Richland Manor proposed the "Howard District" of Anne Arundel County.[12] After several adjournments, the area of western Anne Arundel County was designated the Howard District in 1839.[13] The district had the same status as a county except that it was not separately represented in the Maryland General Assembly. In 1841, the county built its first courthouse in Ellicott City.[14] At the January 1851 constitutional convention, Thomas Beale Dorsey submitted a petition led by James Sykes. A committee was formed with Dorsey, Bowie, Smith, Harbine and Ricaud. After several postponements, the district became erected officially as Howard County on March 7, 1851.[15]

The plantations of modern Howard County used slave labor as early as 1690. At the time of the Underground Railroad, some Howard County residents assisted slaves who were escaping to freedom. This was particularly risky, as many prominent plantation families were confederate sympathizers during the civil war, contributing militiamen to the South to protect local interests.[16] Maryland was exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation, later abolishing slavery in the update of the Maryland Constitution in November 1864.[17]

By 1899, Howard County contained 400 miles (640 km) of dirt and 48 miles (77 km) of stone roads, including three paid turnpikes maintained by 118 men. Most traffic consisted of loads delivered to rail crossings.[18] In 1909, County Commissioners Hess, Werner and O'Neil were charged with malfeasance regarding contract bids.[19]

In 1918, a deadly flu pandemic swept the county starting with an early outbreak in Camp Meade in adjacent Anne Arundel County.[20][21] The 1930s saw a shift from one-room schoolhouses to centralized schools with bus service. By 1939 wheat harvesting fell to just 18,800 acres (7,600 ha).[22] The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 eventually led to the construction of Interstate 70 across northern Howard County and Interstate 95 across the eastern part of the county.[23] The sparsely populated county hosted population centers in Ellicott City, Elkridge, Savage, North Laurel and Lisbon with W.R. Grace and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as the largest new employers. Residents elected officials that campaigned to keep the county rural while planners prepared public works to support a quarter million residents by the year 2000. Race relations and desegregation became major issues of the time.[24]

From 1963 to 1966 the Rouse Company bought 14,000 acres (5,700 ha) of land and rezoned it for the Columbia Development. In 1972, the Marriott company proposed to build a regional theme park on Rouse-owned land but was denied zoning.[25]

The county has a number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.[26]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 253 square miles (660 km2), of which 251 square miles (650 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2) (1.0%) is water.[27] It is the second-smallest county in Maryland by land area and smallest by total area.

Howard County is located in the reservoirs.

Adjacent counties