The one-hour Maryland Public Television documentary Columbia’s Promise, which tells the story of Columbia, Maryland from urban planner and real estate developer James Rouse’s original vision to the present day, premieres on MPT-HD on Sunday, April 28, at 7pm. The film will be shown again on MPT2/Create on Monday, April 29, at 10pm.
Columbia celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 and is considered one of the most successful planned cities in the world. If the Howard County community was considered an official city, it would be the second largest in Maryland.
The new MPT film uses archival video footage rarely seen in recent decades to help bring to life the early days of Columbia’s development. Portions of a 1966 public TV documentary – produced by the New York City station that became WNET – shows the Rouse team designing Columbia as an open and inclusive city during a time when segregation was still prominent.
The film explains that Rouse’s vision for a “better city” was driven by the impact of sprawl that occurred after World War II. Tens of thousands of homes were being built across America with little thought, automobiles dominated the designs of suburbs, and the result was often dismaying. Rouse and his team began to imagine how a well-designed city could fundamentally change this dynamic.
Columbia’s Promise also features segments from a video interview Rouse conducted in 1987, during which he commented on his career, his vision for Columbia, and how the city came about.
“Mr. Rouse was famously modest and resisted most formal photo sessions and television interview requests,” explained Ken Day, MPT executive producer responsible for the documentary. “A local producer and cameraman named R. Scott Kramer had begged Mr. Rouse for years to sit down and talk about Columbia. He finally succeeded, and we are thrilled to have this interview material as part of our film.”
Among other individuals interviewed in the film is the last surviving member of Jim Rouse’s Columbia architectural planning team, 82-year-old Bob Tennenbaum, several of the city’s first residents, and Rouse biographer Joshua Olsen.
“This documentary tells the entire, inspiring story of Columbia, from James Rouse’s original vision to the present day,” said Olsen, author of Better Places, Better Lives: A Biography of James Rouse. “Creating a film that addresses all of that history is no easy task, but MPT has done a remarkable job with Columbia’s Promise.”
Major funding for Columbia’s Promise is provided by 50th Columbia Birthday Celebration, Inc., Columbia Association, and Howard Community College. Additional funding is provided by Harry H Witzke’s Family Funeral Home, Howard County Tourism & Promotion, and the Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate.
Launched in 1969 and headquartered in Owings Mills, MD, Maryland Public Television is a nonprofit, state-licensed public television network and member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). MPT’s six transmitters cover Maryland plus portions of contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Frequent winner of regional Emmy® awards, MPT creates local, regional, and national television shows. Beyond broadcast, MPT’s commitment to professional educators, parents, caregivers, and learners of all ages is delivered through year-round instructional events and the super-website Thinkport, which garners in excess of five million page views annually. MPT’s community engagement connects viewers with local resources on significant health, education, and public interest topics through year-round outreach events, viewer forums, program screenings, and phone bank call-in opportunities. For more information visit mpt.org.