Visit Harford's 'House of Cards' - Part Two

Take a tour of sites used in 'House of Cards'

For part one of our look at the locations of "House of Cards," click here.

It's hard to get much better advertising for your county than having parts of it serve as the backdrop for a popular TV series, such as what's happened with Harford County and "House of Cards."

"It's a good tool for us to promote Harford County to get folks' attention when we're out there. It's out there and in mainstream media. People know about it and want to talk about it," Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a binge-watcher of the Netflix series, said.

The opening scene of one season is the presidential limousine coming through Level Village, where Glassman grew up.

Renewed for a fourth season, the show is based in an almost 200,000-square-foot warehouse where the White House and other Washington, D.C., sites have been re-created. Glassman toured the studio and met Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

Various other spots around Harford County have served as the outdoor settings for the show, and Visit Harford! has created a site tour for fans. The sites in today's issue show sites six to 10; the other five were listed in Wednesday's issue. Those who complete the tour can stop by the visitors centers in Bel Air or Havre de Grace for a "Frank Underwood for President 2016" button.

"House of Cards" really is talked about everywhere, Glassman said. When he traveled to New York to meet with the various bond-rating agencies, they wanted to talk about the show first, Harford's bond rating second.

"The bond rating agencies wanted to know all about House of Cards before we got into details of Harford County," Glassman said. "It's sort of a big deal for us as far as local economic development."

Harford is also gaining international exposure. A newspaper in Quebec, Canada, published a story about Havre de Grace sitting in as Frank Underwood's hometown of Gaffney, S.C.

"So Harford County is getting literally international publicity about having 'House of Cards' here," Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, who lives in Forest Hill, said. "The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, they'll mention shooting in Harford County, Edgewood, and all of a sudden it's putting a focus on Harford County."

While there are not specific numbers for Harford as far as economic impact, there certainly is one, especially in terms of local businesses.

The production company, Knight Takes King Productions, is not only leasing 190,000 square feet of warehouse, what Glassman said he still calls the old Gap warehouse, but also the company uses local businesses for things such as set design, furniture and food during filming.

"And looking out back, there's never a shortage of dinner when they're filming," Glassman joked.

When production is in session, the local hotel industry gets close to 5,000 nights of rentals, Glassman said. And now that the hotel tax has been implemented in Harford, the county should see an extra bump from that, he added.

If Knight wasn't using that space, the county executive said, it would be a lot of vacant space someone would have to spend a lot of time trying to lease.

There are also indirect impacts, Gerbes said, like cast and crew going out to dinner or bars, or buying from local stores.

"It helps the Harford County economy; it has a huge impact. A good percentage are small Harford County businesses, they're multi-generational, they've been in the county for decades," Gerbes said.

According to the county, the production company hired 2,198 Marylanders during Season 1 and 1,621 during Season 2. In Season 1, it used 1,814 Maryland businesses, 292 of which were in Harford. And in Season 2, Knight Takes King used 3,085 Maryland businesses, 469 of which were in Harford.

Statewide, "House of Cards" had an economic impact of $130 million during Season 1 and $90 million during Season 2.

"We're hoping they stay. We've got a vested interested in this. We've been lobbying the governor, the Senate and the House to keep as much funding as we can," Glassman said.

Gerbes also said the county and local governments have been supportive of "House of Cards," which "makes a big difference when a show comes in and they're welcomed with open arms, that goes a long way."

"House of Cards" has been renewed for a fourth season, and Gerbes said filming should begin this summer.

Before that, there will be another casting call in Harford County; the details of it are being worked out, Gerbes said.

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