Though they are built on land over which a plant-eating dinosaur called the “astrodon” once roamed, the unincorporated communities of Fulton and North Laurel have their gaze firmly fixed on today.
It’s not that residents of these upscale communities are unaware of the area’s history; human presence along the Patuxent River dates back to at least 6500 BC. But homeowners prefer the pleasures provided by modern community living: swimming pools, child care centers, private fishing docks and putting greens.
Today more than four out of five homes in North Laurel were built between 1970 and 2010, while more than half of Fulton’s homes date from 2000 or later.
The area is home to at least three planned communities (Maple Lawn in Fulton and Emerson and Stone Lake in North Laurel) that combine housing, businesses and green space. They are governed by community associations and function almost as independent towns within larger municipalities.
But the peaceful coexistence between the past and present wasn’t easily achieved.
For the previous 400 years, the area had been home to Native American hunters, tobacco plantations and country estates such as Overlook Farm in North Laurel. Even today, residents revel in natural beauty while kayaking in Scott’s Cove or hiking the Wincopin trail loop.
Compared with neighboring communities such as Columbia, Fulton and North Laurel remained relatively undeveloped for most of the 20th century. In 1998, developer Stewart J. Greenebaum proposed developing the 604-acre Maple Lawn on land once owned by a turkey farm. Opponents contested the project because they feared it would result in suburban sprawl. Though Maple Lawn was eventually built, the legal dispute dragged on through 2014.
Businessman James Rouse had an easier time winning approval to break ground on the 570-acre Emerson community in 2001 and the 98-acre Stone Lake in 2006, both in North Laurel.
A note about that name: North Laurel today identifies more closely with its Howard County neighbors than it does with the town of Laurel on the opposite bank of the Patuxent River in Prince George’s County. Laurel and North Laurel became separate communities in 1860 when Howard County was carved out of lands that formerly belonged to Anne Arundel County.