The oldest community in Howard County dates to 1733, when the Maryland General Assembly passed a law authorizing construction of a town on a 30-acre site of what was then called Elkridge Landing. The new community of Jansen Town sprang up to serve tobacco farmers bringing crops to be loaded onto English sailing ships docked on the Patapsco River.
Industries that thrived over the years include pig-iron forging, basket weaving, paper, cotton and grist milling, and of course, the B&O Railroad. The Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette camped light infantry at the site while en route to Virginia in 1781.
This unincorporated community of 20,519 offers multiple historic sites, including the Elkridge Furnace Complex, which contains the remnants of an iron furnace that operated until the 1860s, the Melville Chapel United Methodist Church (founded four years before the Declaration of Independence) and the Thomas Viaduct, completed in 1835, the world’s oldest multiple-arched curved stone railroad bridge.
History and real estate buffs stroll the sidewalks of Lawyers Hill, which is on the National Register of Historic Places with its eclectic mix of architectural styles, including Georgian Revival, Victorian, Queen Anne and Gothic Revival homes. But the undisputed star of the historic district is The Belmont Manor and Historic Park, built in 1738 as the home of Caleb and Priscilla Dorsey. The former plantation built in the Colonial Georgian style was kept running by the labor of enslaved people.
Today, Elkridge is divided geographically into Northern, Southern, Western and Central districts consisting of 20 neighborhoods. Housing is decidedly upscale; the average housing price of $347,200 is one and a half times the national average. But Elkridge is hardly homogeneous; Black, Asian, Hispanic and biracial people make up about half the total population.
Folks can meet their neighbors while hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing or horseback riding in the bucolic, 16,000-acre Patapsco Valley State Park or at Rockburn Branch Park, which boasts four ball fields, two basketball courts, an 18-hole disc golf course and four tennis courts.