Posted on October 17, 2018

Statue of James Rouse, Columbia Waterfront
Statue of James Rouse, Columbia Waterfront

Columbia, Maryland turned fifty years old last year, but despite hitting middle age it shows no sign of slowing down.  It started as a dream, to build a community that accommodated it's citizens every want and need. It's grown to a city of 100,000 people and is generally acknowledged as one of the best places to live in America. Here are some fun facts about the city that James Rouse built.

  • The Lists: Money Magazine listed Columbia as the “Best Place to Live” in 2016. It was ranked 12th in Happiest cities in the US by Wallet Hub, (only ten points behind the number one city, Fremont California). According to City-Data, Columbia ranks #24 on list of top 101 educated cities, #27 on top 101 cities with most Masters and Doctorates degrees, and #8 on the list of top 101 cities w/ largest population of women in computer and math occupations.

Columbia Waterfront


  • Celebrities: For a city that’s just over half a century old, Columbia has contributed a number of famous (and a few infamous) names to the cultural discussion. It’s notable people include authors like Michael Chabon and Laura Lippman, cartoonists like Frank Cho and Aaron McGruder, athletes like Steve Lombardozzi Jr. AND Senior, as well as Redskins linebacker Zach Brown. Columbia’s most famous son is conveniently tied to it’s storied past. Academy Award nominated actor Edward Norton is the grandson of Columbia’s founder James Rouse!
Columbia Native Ed Norton
Columbia, MD native Ed Norton got his start at the Columbia Center for the Performing Arts


  • The Next America: While there are other examples of planned cities (Reston, VA for example), Columbia stands out because of James Rouse’s vision. He wanted an integrated series of villages that combined the best parts of the city (Diversity, economic opportunities, recreational options and other amenities, easy transportation) and the best parts of the county (quiet suburban streets, a sense of community, education, safety). This wasn’t just a city, this was a beacon to the world, a city of the future, a “Next America.” It took grit, wisdom, initiative, and a lot of luck, but 51 years later it’s safe to say Rouse’s vision has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Columbia MD founder James Rouse
Columbia's Founder, Urban Planner James Rouse
  • Diversity Rouse envisioned a place with a seat for everybody at the table, something that transcended race, religion, or economic circumstance. He unveiled this vision several years before the Fair Housing Act codified it into law. According to the Washington Post: “...Rouse was also ahead of his time in his pursuit of an ecologically sensitive, mixed-income and colorblind community in an era when redlining was common. And Columbia’s success on those fronts stands out next to most of the planned communities that came after it.”

Children, Columbia swimming pool

  • Merriweather Post Pavilion: Columbia’s most famous landmark has been there since the city’s inception, opening on July 14th 1967. Originally designed as the summer home of the National Symphony Orchestra, the giant 15,000 seat Ampitheater is more famous for the types and variety of music that’s played there over the last fifty one years. Led Zeppelin played their epic hit “Whole Lotta Love” for only the second time live when they opened up for the Who on May 25th 1969. Merriweather Post Pavilion was ranked #29 in Consequence of Sound’s top 100 American Music Venues. “An ideal spot for mid-size and large-scale summer tours, locals can rest easy knowing an artist would be remiss not to book a night or two at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on their summer schedule.”
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion


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