Below you’ll find a brief history of Rockville, courtesy of Peerless Rockville. Following the brief history, you’ll see a comprehensive timeline of noteworthy events that occurred in Rockville between 8000 BC and 2011 AD.
Brief History of Rockville:
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 67,000 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.
Rockville Timeline (8,000 BC – 2011 AD):
8000 B.C. Archaic period of prehistory. After thousands of years of following big game herds, hunters settled into semi-nomadic lives in area which became Montgomery County.
1000 B.C. Native groups established year-round agricultural villages.
1200 A.D. Natives competed for river and forest resources, resulting in a succession of population displacements.
1717-35 Arthur Nelson surveyed and patented four tracts of land totaling 3,162 acres in the Rockville area.
1739 Chapel-of-ease built to accommodate westernmost settlers in Prince George’s (Anglican) Parish. Later became Christ Episcopal Church.
1740s “Rolling road” in use by tobacco planters and north-south travelers.
1748 Frederick County created, including Rockville area. Frederick Town selected County seat.
1755 British General Edward Braddock camped at Owen’s Ordinary enroute to defeat at Fort Duquesne at start of French & Indian War.
1760s Joseph Elgar built saw and grist mills on Rock Creek, later known as Muncaster Mill. William Dent and William Williams also constructed grist and saw mill, later Horner Mill.
1774 Patriots met at Charles Hungerford’s tavern to issue resolves supporting Boston protestors against British taxation.
1776 Frederick County divided, lower section named Montgomery County. Crossroads settlement at Hungerford’s tavern selected as new County seat.
1777 First Court session in Leonard Davis’ tavern. Village known as “Montgomery Court House”.
1784 William Williams divided part of “Exchange and New Exchange Enlarged” into 85 “lotts with streets fit, convenient and suitable for a town”, which he named Williamsburgh.
1787 Court House Square surveyed and laid out for Court House and jail.
1794 Post office established at Montgomery Court House.
1801 New County jail erected.
1801-3 Maryland Assembly passed Acts to re-survey lots and erect a town to be called “Rockville”. Work completed and Plan of Rockville, dated May 9, 1803, recorded in the Land Records of Montgomery County.
1805 Washington Turnpike Company chartered to build a road from George Town to Rockville.
1812 Rockville Academy opened with 30 students.
1813 Henry Shouse and Otho Williams opened saw and grist mill operation on Watts Branch. Later called Wootton’s Mill.
1814 President James Madison, General William Henry Winder, and troops came through Montgomery Court House after British burned Washington, D.C.
1817 Saint Mary’s Catholic Church constructed.
1822 Christ Episcopal Church moved into town.
1820s Town enlarged by first two additions to Rockville.
1833 Meteor shower dazzled Rockville residents.
1835 Samuel Clarke Veirs opened saw and grist mill on Rock Creek.
1838 Richard Johns and Catharine Bowie purchased tracts of land east of town and built farmhouse they called Glenview.
1840 New Montgomery County Court House constructed.
1846 Montgomery County Agricultural Society organized. Began tradition of County Fair in Rockville. Opened Fair Grounds on the Pike in 1848.
1860 Town of Rockville incorporated by Act of the Maryland General Assembly. Voters elected three commissioners and a bailiff.
1861 First public school opened for white students in Rockville.
1862-64 Rockville slaves emancipated.
1863 Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart captured prisoners, horses, and wagons in Rockville and headed north toward Pennsylvania.
1864 Confederate troops under General Jubal Early skirmished with Union troops and seized town records enroute to battle of Fort Stevens in Washington.
1865 Freedmen’s Bureau opened in Rockville to assist former slaves.
1869 Rockville Library Association and Masonic Lodge formed.
1873 Metropolitan Branch of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad opened through Montgomery County. Town of Rockville enlarged corporate limits and extended boardwalk to the new depot.
1876 First public school opened for colored students in Rockville.
1880 Rockville Cemetery Association incorporated as non-denominational community burial ground.
1884 First commercial bank in the County, Montgomery County National Bank, opened in Rockville.
1888 New town charter changed governing body from Town Commissioners to Mayor and Council of Rockville.
1889 First telephone installed at Fearon’s drug store on Montgomery Avenue.
1890 Mayor and Council issued first building permit to Thomas Dawson. New Rockville Academy building constructed.
1891 Montgomery County built new court house (Red Brick Courthouse). Lincoln Park subdivision recorded in Land Records.
1892 Montgomery County’s first high school (later called Rockville, then Richard Montgomery) opened on Monroe Street for grades 8 through 11.
1894 Coxey’s Army marched through Rockville on way to protest in Washington, D.C.
1897 Town constructed water pumping station and electric light plant. Electric service available but not all areas covered until circa 1920.
1899 Rockville Base Ball Club organized.
1900 Woman’s Club of Rockville founded. First trolley traveled the Rockville & Tennallytown Electric Railroad up the Pike to the Fair Grounds.
c. 1905 Rockville Pike taken over by State Roads Commission.
1910 Dr. Dexter Bullard opened the doors of Chestnut Lodge Sanitarium in the former Woodlawn Hotel.
1912 Chautauqua came to Rockville. Order of Galilean Fishermen organized in Rockville as sick and burial society for black residents. SECO, Rockville’s first movie theatre, opened for silent films and vaudeville shows.
1913 Typhoid epidemic in Rockville, resulting in town sewerage system.
1918-9 Influenza epidemic struck hundreds in Rockville.
1921 Rockville Volunteer Fire Department organized. Rockville Library moved into Dr. Stonestreet’s office.
1924 Croydon Park subdivision platted at Court House.
1925 Rockville Chamber of Commerce organized. Veirs and Muncaster mills, powered by water, closed. Hickerson Brothers set up steam-powered mill at railroad tracks.
1926 Rockville free delivery postal service began. Dr. and Mrs. James A. Lyon enlarged and renovated Glenview mansion. Welsh Field opened for athletic events, near Jefferson Street.
1927 First high school for Montgomery County black students built on North Washington Street. First traffic signal, a “stop and go” light installed at corner of Washington Street and Montgomery Avenue.
1928 Congressional Airport and School of Aeronautics opened on the Rockville Pike.
1931 Montgomery County opened new Court House and jail in Town Center. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald attended father’s funeral at Saint Mary’s Church.
1932 Mayor and Council adopted first Zoning Ordinance.
1935 Montgomery Hotel on Commerce Lane razed and replaced by Milo Theater. School bus-train accident resulted in closing of Baltimore Road track crossing and in construction of bridge over Veirs Mill Road.
1936 William B. Gibbs, principal of Rockville Colored Elementary School, filed suit for equal pay.
1939 Rockville’s first permanent post office dedicated, at corner of Washington Street and Montgomery Avenue. Cabin John creek sewage disposal plant built.
1940 F. Scott Fitzgerald buried in Rockville Cemetery. First sections of Rockcrest and Roxboro developed.
1944 Memorial Day parade tradition revived in Rockville.
1945 V-J Day celebrated in Court House Square with parade and speeches.
1946 Parking meters installed in business district.
1947 First large apartment complex built in Rockville. Rockville Little Theatre organized. Rockville Citizens Association formed.
1948 Position of City Manager created. First summer recreation program.
1949 Mass annexation into Rockville of 2,210 acres.
1950 Rockville Kiwanis Club organized.
1951 Rockville By-Pass (Hungerford Drive) opened. George Washington Carver High School and Junior College opened. Rockville created Civil Defense program.
1951-7 Hill & Kimmel purchased properties on Washington Street and Middle Lane to develop three strip shopping centers.
1953 New County Office Building replaced Welsh athletic field. Large land area along Pike near Halpine annexed into City of Rockville.
1954 National Municipal League and Look Magazine honored Rockville with All-America City Award. Rockville Boys Baseball Association organized.
1955 General Assembly granted Home Rule to Maryland municipalities, giving Rockville annexation and other powers. Rockville Jaycees organized. Rockville Chamber of Commerce chartered. WINX operated radio station on Baltimore Road.
1956 Mayor & Council appointed first Planning Commission. Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church relocated in Lincoln Park. Rockville Civitan Club organized.
1957 Rockville joined Montgomery County library system. City purchased Lyon estate (Glenview) and 28 acres for cultural, recreational, and social uses. Rockville Pike widened to four lanes. U.S. Route 240 (now I-270) completed through Rockville, connecting Washington, D.C. with Frederick County. Pinneberg, Germany established Sister City relationship with Rockville. Rockville Art League and Rockville Concert Band founded.
1958 Unitarian Church of Rockville founded as a fellowship. New sewer system installed for Cabin John creek drainage area. Rockville installed new water system, supplied by Potomac River.
1959 First public housing project in Montgomery County, 65 units known as Lincoln Terrace, built in Rockville. Congressional Plaza shopping center opened on site of former Congressional Airport. Elwood Smith teen center opened. John Gray, director of Public Works, developed formula for Smooth-Seal method of asphalting.
1960 Rockville celebrated Centennial of incorporation. First Master Plan adopted. Agreement between Rockville and Montgomery County established Maximum Expansion Limits. Auditorium built at Rockville Civic Center Park. First Antique and Classic Car Show. Modern Zoning Ordinance adopted, with first Comprehensive Map Amendment. Sit-in demonstrations at HiBoy Restaurant.
1960s Richard Montgomery High School dominated high school football in Maryland.
1961 Montgomery County Detention Center opened on former Poor Farm property. Rockville Industrial Park opened as city’s first for research and development. City of Rockville initiated Urban Renewal project in downtown Rockville. All-America Award #2. Julius West Junior High School opened.
1962 New City Hall built on site of former Peter home. Rockville enacted Public Accommodations law.
1963 First comprehensive residential developments –Meadow Hall and Woodley Gardens. “Lilith” filmed in Rockville.
1964 City of Rockville split Parks & Recreation Department from Public Works. City continued to add park land as new subdivisions opened. Capital Beltway completed. First Citizens’ Forum.
1965 Demolition in central business district begun. Montgomery Junior College opened Rockville campus. Solid waste landfill and incinerator opened on Southlawn Lane. City purchased Beall-Dawson house. Rockville Football League and Rockville Arts Council formed. Rockville surpassed Cumberland and Hagerstown to become second largest city in Maryland. Began municipal refuse collection. First synagogue, Beth-Tikva, built on Baltimore Road.
1966 New Saint Mary’s Church constructed. Near-demise of old Saint Mary’s Chapel led to historic district ordinance for Rockville. First Spring Arts Festival. First computer introduced at City Hall (NCR 500).
1967 Fair Housing law passed. Community Ministries of Rockville formed to coordinate welfare services of churches and community. First resident moved into New Mark Commons.
1968 Municipal Swim Center opened.
1969 Wootton High School opened.
1970 Rockville High School opened. “Street 70″ created. Lincoln Park Community Center built. Senior Citizen Commission and Economic Development Council established. Rockville purchased RedGate farm.
1971 New Rockville Library opened on Maryland Avenue.
1972 Rockville Mall dedicated. Rockville Community Chorus formed. At a telephone booth in Rockville, James McCord received orders to carry out plans of Committee to Reelect the President to bug Watergate office.
1974 Mayor and Council designated first three historic districts in Montgomery County. Peerless Rockville, Rockville Musical Theatre, and Rockville Civic Ballet chartered. RedGate Golf Course opened. Maryland Court of Appeals retains entire city in new 17th Legislative District.
1975 Remains of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald moved from Rockville Cemetery to Saint Mary’s Cemetery. Twinbrook Library opened on Meadow Hall Road. Zoning Ordinance recodified.
1976 All-America Award #3.
1978 Art in Public Places created. Cultural Arts Commission and Victorian Lyric Opera Company formed.
1978 All-America City Award #4. Rockville created Humanities Commission, one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to do so.
1981 County began operating Ride-On buses in Rockville.
1982 Rockville Senior Center opened. Montgomery County Judicial Center and Executive Office Building constructed. First neighborhood plans–Croydon Park and Twinbrook–adopted.
1984 Metro Red Line extended to Rockville and Shady Grove.
1985 Rockville Cable TV began operations.
1988 National Chamber Orchestra took up residency at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre.
1989 First Hometown Holidays sponsored by Recreation Department. Rockville Arts Place organized. Rockville farmers’ market opened.
1991 Circumferential highway around Rockville completed, comprised of Gude Drive, Wootton Parkway, and First Street.
1993 Rockville Mall demolished. Thomas Farm annexed into City of Rockville. New comprehensive Master Plan adopted.
1995 King Farm annexed into City of Rockville. Marlo Furniture store, first of the “big box” retail stores, opened on the Rockville Pike. First female mayor elected (Rose G. Krasnow)
1996 Restoration of grand courtroom in the Red Brick Courthouse completed.
1997 “Imagine Rockville” visioning process. Courthouse Square Park created, with “Spirit of Rockville” fountain. Street grid returned to Town Center.
1998 Regal Cinemas opened in Town Center.
2000 City of Rockville celebrated the Millennium Year with events, contests, and commissioning of history. Rockville slips to fifth largest city in Maryland.
2002 Rockville’s population exceeded 50,000.
2007 Public and private partners dedicated new Town Center development.
2008 Mayor and Council designated the first recent past building, the 1971 Rockville Library, a historic district, (demolished in 2009).
2010 Celebration of Sesquicentennial of Incorporation.
2011 Groundbreaking of Choice Hotels International corporate headquarters in Town Center.
Featured photo courtesy of Peerless Rockville’s book, Images of America: Rockville (available for purchase in the link).