Howard County (pop. 287,085), located in central Maryland between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, became an independent county in 1851. The county was predominantly agricultural until the 1960s, when the development of Columbia, a planned community, precipitated the rapid transformation of the area into a suburban housing and job center within commuting distance of the nearby large cities.
Ellicott City, the county seat, was founded in 1772, and boasts a charming main street and historic district. Andrew Ellicott, a member of the family for whom the city is named, was commissioned to survey the boundaries of Washington, D.C. and played an important role in the development of the nation’s capital.
Doughoregan Manor (1766), located near Ellicott City, is a major landmark in Howard County. The large colonial plantation was the country home of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and remains in the family today. The county is also home to the Thomas Viaduct (1835), the first curved stone-arch bridge in the United States. The bridge consists of eight archways spanning the Patapsco River and has stayed in use for more than 150 years. Savage Mill, which operated as a textile mill from 1822 until 1947, is now home to restaurants, shops, and special events. The Ellicott City Station was the original terminus of the B&O Railroad.
The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning maintains an inventory of historic properties (numbering nearly 1,000) available to the public through the county and Maryland Historical Trust Web sites. Howard County had 40 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Lawyers Hill (Elkridge, MD) and Ellicott City Historic Districts. The Howard County Historic District Commission was created to preserve the district’s historic character as well as provide advisory comments on subdivisions and site development plans affecting historic properties throughout the County.
While reviewing a recent request to demolish a garage, the county discovered the garage was originally a one-room schoolhouse. Howard County enlisted the help of the Antique Farm Machinery Club to save the building. Established in 1995, the Club aims to preserve Howard County’s agricultural way of life through educational programs designed so those participating can experience the way of life in historic Howard County. The county architectural historian documented the one-room schoolhouse, and the building was taken apart and reconstructed at the Club’s Living Farm Heritage Museum to be preserved and made available to the public.
Regular heritage events are scheduled throughout Howard County, including Farm Heritage Days and Farm-City Celebration Week. Though the area is not as heavily agricultural as it was historically, Howard County has preserved more than 20,000 acres of farmland, and these festivals aim to foster appreciation for that heritage. Tours of sites in Howard County are available in a variety of forms, including a self-guided walking tour of Ellicott City (available from the Howard County tourism Web site and the Ellicott City Visitor’s Center); six virtual tours of historic and cultural sites in the county; and the Civil War Trails program, which highlights eight sites in the county. Beginning in 2001, Preservation Howard County implemented an awards program to honor leadership and contributions in the field of heritage and cultural preservation.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2013.