Howard County is a county located in the central part of the U.S. state of Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. It is considered part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. Its county seat is Ellicott City. As of the 2010 census, the population was 287,085. The center of population of Maryland is located in the Howard County town of Jessup.
Due to the proximity of Howard County's population centers to Baltimore, the county has traditionally been considered a part of the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. 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 also 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 a median family income of $125,152 in 2012, Howard County was ranked the second wealthiest county by median household income in the United States by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013. 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." Howard County's schools frequently rank first in Maryland as measured by standardized test scores and graduation rates.
In 1652, the Susquehannock tribes signed a peace treaty with Maryland, giving up their provence over the territory that is now Howard County. In 1800, the mean center of U.S. population as calculated by the US Census Bureau was found in what is now Howard County.
The area of western Anne Arundel County was designated the Howard District when Anne Arundel County was divided in 1839. The Howard 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. At the January 1851 constitutional convention, Thomas Beale Dorsey submitted a petition lead 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 7 March 1851.
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. Maryland was exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation, later abolishing slavery in the update of the Maryland Constitution in November 1864.
By the turn of the century in 1899, Howard County contained 400 miles of dirt and 48 miles of stone roads, including three paid turnpikes maintained by 118 men. Most traffic consisted of loads delivered to rail crossings. In 1909, County Commissioners Hess, Werner and O'Neil were charged with malfeasance regarding contract bids.
The 1930s saw a shift from one room schoolhouses to centralized schools with bus service. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 brought the I-95 highway through Eastern Howard county.
The county has a number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.