When people in the United States think of Maryland, the town of Bel Air probably isn’t the first thing they think of. Although this little hamlet on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay might seem quiet, there is a ton of interesting historical information to be found about Bel Air Maryland.
As the county seat of Harford County, this place is the governmental, civic, cultural, educational and medical center of this area of Maryland. Although it only has about 10,000 residents, each of these people enjoys excellent quality of life with easy access to major highways and population centers like Baltimore, Towson and Washington, D.C. The three square miles that now compose Bel Air were originally called “Scott’s Old Fields”, as the area was named by land owner Danielle Scott. As the town grew, the commissioner decided to change the town’s name to Belle Aire, which is French for “beautiful place”. He was probably trying to ensure that more people moved into town, enticed by the name. After a number of years, the name was shortened for convenience’s sake, and it was as el Air MD that the town was incorporated in the early 1900s.
Bel Air Maryland has had some pretty famous, or infamous, residents. For a long stretch of time, it was home to the Booth family. John Wilkes Booth, of course, is the failed actor and eventually assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, but his brother Edwin Booth, the acclaimed Shakespearean actor, also lived there in the 1850s. In the present day, the town’s historical society gives tours of Tudor Hall, where the family lived.
Maryland is very well known throughout the United States for its preponderance of horse racing tracks — there are five notable active tracks in the state today. Living in 21014 from around 1870 to 1960, you would have been able to see a horse race right in town — the Bel Air Racetrack was located where the Hartford Mall currently stands, and it hosted several prominent 3/4 mile races through its long years as a town centerpiece. Other prominent features of the town have come and gone as well. The Maryland and Pennsylvania railroad, known colloquially as the Ma and Pa, came to town in 1883 and operated continuously until 1958. Although its main job was to ship packages quickly along the eastern seaboard corridor, the Ma and Pa also ran passenger services for a time.
Bel Air MD has always been a great place for arts and culture, and it continues to excel in this regard today. From May until August of every year, the town hosts a summer concert series, featuring acts ranging from pop to jazz to the U.S. Navy Band from nearby Annapolis. Art shows like the “Interpretations of the Old Masters” also pop up from time to time at the town’s several acclaimed art galleries. There is no doubt that Bel Air Maryland has a lot of fascinating history behind it, and a great future directly ahead!