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Westminster City

Westminster City Hall is located at 56 West Main Street, Westminster, MD 21157; phone: 410-848-9000.

Beginnings [1]

Beautiful countryside, clean air, abundant water, healthy climate, quality schools, industrious work force, and easy accessibility to Baltimore: these are some of the reasons that people were attracted to the City of Westminster as a place for conducting business, establishing a residence, and vacationing in 1887. Although the City of Westminster is no longer the resort it was in the late 1800s, people are still drawn to Westminster for many of the same reasons today.

The first lots in Westminster were laid out by William Winchester in 1764. There was no particular reason for locating a town where East Main Street and North Church Street intersect today. There were no major, pre-existing crossroads in the area and no navigable waters, often important factors in the founding and growth of a city. Winchester simply created and sold the lots along the road to Baltimore, a pattern that was repeated on present day Main Street by other landowners.

With no real driving force for growth in Westminster, the population increased slowly. Scotch-Irish and Palatinate Germans and Swiss moved to the area from Pennsylvania, and English and Scotch-Irish came from the Maryland tidewater areas to the south. These residents soon took an active role in the growth of Westminster.

The first major instance of growth in Westminster resulted from the Baltimore and Reisterstown Turnpike, built through Carroll County in 1807 to facilitate trading between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This turnpike was built through Westminster only after considerable lobbying by Westminster residents. Westminster quickly developed into a transportation center as a result of the turnpike. Conestoga wagons and mule drivers constantly passed through the town, and a horse drawn bus line provided passenger service between Westminster and nearby towns. Numerous businesses opened along Main Street to serve the travelers and the town's increasing population.

The creation of Carroll County and the designation of Westminster as the county seat also helped to spur growth. This occurrence was once again the result of the lobbying efforts of the residents in Westminster and the surrounding areas. Westminster was originally located near the boundary separating Frederick and Baltimore Counties, and residents were forced to travel long distances to carry out any legal business. As a result, area residents repeatedly petitioned the Maryland General Assembly to create a new county centered on Westminster. A number of these petitions failed until Carroll County was finally created in 1837. The biggest champion of the creation of this new county was John Longwell, who established the Carrolltonian, a newspaper devoted to supporting of the creation of Carroll County.

The designation of Westminster as County Seat resulted in the construction of a number of public and civic buildings. The County Jail was constructed in 1837 and the Court House was completed in 1838. In addition, religious denominations began to construct churches, and in 1846 Ascension Episcopal Church became the first English church built in Westminster. The Order of Odd Fellows took part as well by constructing an Opera House for the entertainment of residents and visitors in Westminster.

Shortly after the creation of Carroll County, Westminster was incorporated as a town by Chapter 418 of the Acts of 1838, under the name of The Burgess and Commissioners of Westminster. That charter was amended by Chapter 335 of the Acts of 1856, which characterized the municipality as a city by changing the name to "The Mayor and Common Council of Westminster." Westminster became the county seat of Carroll County and remained a part of that county, but, as a municipal corporation, it was given certain special, separate, and distinct powers. The City Charter was repealed and reenacted by Chapter 341 of the Acts of 1910.

The citizens of Westminster were conscious of the link between transportation and growth in the town, and as early as 1847, committees began to meet to study the possibility of constructing a rail line through Westminster. Discussions with the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad and the strong support of local residents eventually yielded results, and the Western Maryland Railroad was constructed through Westminster in 1861. The expected growth followed, as the railroad increased the ease of passenger travel and transport of goods to Baltimore.

  1. The City of Westminster, Maryland, 2009 Comprehensive Plan, www.westgov.com, accessed June, 2012.
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