Once, this rolling rural landscape teemed with fertile farms and tobacco plantations, the pride of Colonial settlers with surnames like Dorsey, Ridgely and Warfield. Bucolic it remains, though crops are giving way to corridors of high-end homes that have turned the countryside and its ZIP codes into some of the wealthiest ‘burbs in the nation.
Here, in once-sleepy crossroads like Glenwood, Cooksville and Lisbon, homes sell for an average of nearly $700,000 and sometimes go for millions. In return, residents get top-notch schools, pastoral views and plenty of elbow room to accommodate social distancing.
Six towns make up the county’s west end, most of which rose up around taverns and inns for travelers of yore. (The Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the Revolutionary War, supped at a Cooksville tavern in 1824.) During the Civil War, Confederate troops tromped through the area en route to the battle of Gettysburg.
Residents embrace the area’s agrarian past: West Friendship boasts the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum, which has a working blacksmith shop that offers forge time to the public. The museum is part of West Friendship Park, a 375-acre preserve with six miles of nature trails, horseback riding and an ornithological habitat (a birders’ delight) for everything from blue-winged teal to snow geese.
Here also is the Howard County Fairgrounds, which hosts craft shows, ethnic celebrations, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and the Howard County Fair, an old-fashioned gala with food, music, square dancing, pony rides and pig races each August. (The 75th annual fair, in 2020, was canceled due to the pandemic).
Woodbine, which straddles Howard and Carroll counties, offers Western Regional Park with its 190 acres of athletic fields and tennis and basketball courts. Lisbon, the area’s oldest town, is home to Lisbon Park, a nine-acre gem with tennis courts, a playground and gazebo. Nearby is Larriland Farm, which for almost half a century has offered pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, from cherries and peaches to beets and tomatoes, plus hayrides during apple season each fall.
Just up the road is Day’s End Farm Horse Rescue, an acclaimed and volunteer-driven equine rehabilitation facility for abused and afflicted horses. Since 1989 it has sheltered as many as 150 animals a year, nursing them back to health before offering them for adoption.
Farther west are the affluent communities of Glenwood and Glenelg. The former, once marked by slave plantations, boasts Cattail Creek Country Club with its 18-hole golf course. Glenelg was named for a Scottish manor and bears a moniker that is spelled the same, forward and backward.
At a glance
Median home price (2016): from $490,000 (Woodbine) to $777,500 (Glenelg).