Columbia celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017. Six months of events brought the community together to appreciate the past and imagine the future.

high school students performing

HCPSS high school students performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the Columbia 50 celebration on April 23, 2017.

The celebration opened on March 19, highlighted by a tribute to Columbia by Rep. Elijah Cummings, and continued over several months with art exhibits; a performance with a cast of hundreds of Howard County students at the renowned Merriweather Post Pavilion; a reminder of James Rouse’s vision for Columbia and its promise for the future at Founder’s Day at Howard Community College; an interfaith service honoring Columbia’s diversity and inclusiveness; and many, many activities showcasing the rich cultural and artistic opportunities in Columbia.

Rouse welcome people to Wilde LakeBut Columbia did not just appear out of the blue on June 21, 1967, when James Rouse welcomed people to Columbia and dedicated Wilde Lake, marking the beginning of the city. Columbia was years in the making. Years filled with excitement and energy, opportunities and challenges, successes and failures. There were many key players, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. This timeline chronicles the process from the “land for sale” sign that started it all in April 1962, through the land purchases, zoning, planning meetings, construction, street naming and more.

The material is featured from the documents, photographs, oral histories, and media coverage that are all part of Columbia Archives’ collection, including the James Rouse Papers. Each entry just scratches the surface. Readers are encouraged to visit Columbia Archives to dig deeper into the past.