Planning ahead for a big birthday Howard County: Sesquicentennial will mark 150 years of history, and then some.

March 11, 1997

ITS BIRTH CERTIFICATE says it is 146 years old, but we know better. Although Howard County will celebrate its sesquicentennial in four years, and although it looks quite a bit younger around the edges, it is older than the official number. Its seeds were planted long before the incorporation year of 1851, when the 251-square-mile landlocked area ceased to become the Howard District of Anne Arundel County and assumed its own identity as Howard County.

The county's 18th century roots become evident with just a glance at the old stone buildings on Ellicott City's Main Street that seem out of time and yet provide a perfect counterbalance to Howard's recent decades of development. The county's abundant history also comes alive at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station, where a visitor might find characters dressed in 19th century clothing to offset the county's current, youthful image.

Then there's Elkridge -- then Elk Ridge -- the county's oldest settlement, which also predates the county's incorporation by more than a century. Most of the oldest buildings there were destroyed by fire in 1825. But history springs eternal in the Savage Mill area and in small towns in the southern and western portions of the county.

Each of these places contributed to the glory and pain of Howard's growth, and each of them, including upstart Columbia, will have a role to play in the year 2001, when the county celebrates its 150th birthday.

Baltimore's troubles with celebrating the bicentennial of its incorporation this year prove that communities have no easy task in throwing themselves a birthday bash. It appears things are off to a good start in Howard.

Twenty committees were appointed back in 1993 to ensure that the celebration comes off well. Following the model of Prince George's County's 300th anniversary, Howard officials have named groups to cover various aspects of county life, including the schools, arts, music and literature. The committees will write histories of each community. Planners promise a series of events that will cover Howard's rich, diverse history. They started well by starting early. That should help them pull off a bash that would make the Ellicott brothers of the 18th century and their peers proud.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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