Charles County (population 138,991) was chartered in 1658 and boasts numerous historic sites and traditional landscapes. Notable historic properties include the Dr. Samuel Mudd House, home of the physician who treated President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and Thomas Stone National Historic Site, home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Each of the towns in the county has its unique history. Benedict was the landing site for British troops who marched on Washington during the War of 1812. Indian Head was founded in 1890 when the U.S. Navy established a proving ground that has evolved into the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center. Several communities originally developed as railroad towns such as LaPlata, the county seat, and Waldorf, a major retail hub. Today, growth in the county is being spurred by suburban development for nearby Washington, D.C.
Much of Charles County’s history revolves around agriculture, notably tobacco farming. Thousands of wood-framed tobacco barns still define the character of the County’s rural landscapes. But with the virtual halt of tobacco production in Maryland, these barns have been abandoned and are threatened by neglect and development pressure. Charles County is participating in the Southern Maryland Tobacco Barns Preservation Initiative, which is promoting and helping to fund rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the historic barns.
Charles County is part of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area, and the County is actively involved in development and implementation of the area’s management plan. Recently, the County applied for a Maryland Heritage Areas grant to rehabilitate the Burch House in Port Tobacco, one of only four surviving 18th century buildings in the former county seat.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2006.