Village History

In 1963, at time in which Howard County, Maryland was almost entirely rural, the Rouse Company announced that it had purchased over 140 separate Howard Country properties for a total of acquisition of more than 14,000 acres, one-tenth of the County’s total land area. The purpose of this colossal land acquisition was clearly stated as being to “build a new city”, to be called Columbia. James W. Rouse, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Rouse Company, described his vision of Columbia as being a planned city that would avoid the ills of urban sprawl and actually enhance its residents’ quality of life by providing jobs and recreation, shopping and health care, and the many other facilities and services people want and need in a city, along with a broad range of housing choices.

Designed to have nine villages and a Town Center, construction started on Columbia’s first village, Wilde Lake, in 1966. Columbia opened to the public one year later, drawing international publicity and more than 100,000 visitors to its Exhibit Center during the first summer. In 1967, construction began on the city’s second village, Harper’s Choice, which also lies in the northwest part of Columbia.  

Centrally located within the Village of Harper’s Choice, the Harper’s Choice Village Center is located northeast and northwest of the intersection of Harper’s Farm Road and Cedar Lane in Columbia, Maryland. The Harper’s Choice Village Center opened in 1971 and was originally named Joseph’s Square in honor of the first Chairman of the Harper’s Choice Village Board, John Joseph. At the time, the shopping center was a unique mixture of retail, offices and residential, which it remains to this day. Joseph’s Square was renovated in 1987 and renamed Harper’s Choice Village Center. The plaza of the shopping center was designated Joseph’s Square. In the mid 1990’s the Village Center underwent an extensive renovation and refurbishment.

The Village consists of three neighborhoods - Longfellow, Swansfield, and Hobbit’s Glen. Longfellow, the first neighborhood in the village, was named for the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The name, Hobbit’s Glen was taken from the works of J. R. Tolkien. Swansfield’s name was inspired by the paintings of James MacNeil Whistler. The three neighborhoods and the Village Center are connected through roads, many miles of pathways, and interconnected natural resources. 

The land comprising the Village of Harper’s Choice is depicted in green in the map below.

The Village of Harper’s Choice is comprised of land that was added to Columbia with the acquisition of one of the largest working farms in the area, William Kahler’s 700-acre farm.  The majority of the Village’s land, however, was purchased from Robert Goodloe Harper Carroll. His ancestor, Robert Goodloe Harper was a prominent figure in Maryland during the late 1700s and is the namesake for the Village of Harper’s Choice. At the age of fifteen, Harper joined a volunteer corps of Cavalry and served in the American Revolutionary Army. He was a Federalist and served as a Maryland member of the United States Senate. Robert Goodloe Harper married Catherine Carroll, the daughter of Charles Carroll (signer of the Declaration of Independence) in May 1800. Charles Carroll secured most of the land now comprising Harper’s Choice in 1702 under a land grant consisting of more than 7,000 acres along the Middle Patuxent River. The land was originally part of the Carroll family estate known as Doughoregan Manor. The Carroll family still resides on Doughoregan Manor and is the only family in the country who still resides on property that was owned by a signer of the Declaration of Independence at the time of the signing.

Harper’s Choice Historical Landmarks:
  •       Just off Rushlight Path is a small wrought iron fence surrounding a land marker that predates the Revolutionary War. It designates three original land grants. Carved in stone, it says: "There stand the beginning of trees of Doughoregan, Pushpin and The Girls Portion, 1773."
  •       Remnants of the past remain in Harper’s Choice. A small cemetery is tucked away in a small grove of trees near the intersection of Harper’s Farm Road and Eliots Oak Road (just outside the Village Center Community Plan study area.