More than 250 years ago, land grants to European settlers formed the nucleus for today’s Rockville, Maryland. By the 1750s local farmers were transporting tobacco to market in Georgetown down a road formerly used by Indians. The tiny settlement was designated as the seat of the new Montgomery County in 1776. Known as Rockville by 1803, the town’s life centered on Courthouse activity. More homes and shops were built, and the town of nearly 600 was incorporated in 1860.
Opening of rail service in 1873 transformed Rockville into a bustling summer resort and commuter town. Washingtonians built cottages and permanent residences, developers bought up farmland for subdivisions, and new businesses took advantage of the building boom in the period from 1880 to 1910.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the pace of growth slowed considerably. Between 1900 and 1920, Rockville’s population grew by only 45 persons. However, amenities available in urban areas came to Rockville in this period—electricity, telephones, indoor bathrooms, a sewerage system, trolley cars, a town park, and street trees.
The years after World War II were phenomenal ones in Rockville. The population swelled from 2,047 in 1940 to 26,042 in 1960. The newcomers to Rockville included WWII veterans and their young families who purchased starter homes in new subdivisions, including Hungerford Towne, Twin-Brook, and Montrose. The decade of 1950-60 proved pivotal for the area, as much of the old disappeared and the new was being constructed.
Urban renewal was also launched during this period affecting Rockville’s downtown area. In the end, the project removed four streets, razed 111 structures, relocated 165 businesses and 52 families, and added 1,560 garage parking spaces. Constructed in this 47-acre area over the following 40 years were a shopping mall, high-rise apartment buildings, a Judicial Center and Executive Office Building, and a new Town Center.
Today Rockville has a population of over 60,000 people and continues to grow. The dynamics that created Rockville in the 18th and 19th centuries are still the same ones attracting newcomers: the presence of county government, a favorable location close to the nation’s capital, converging transportation routes that bring people here, and identity as an independent municipality.