La Plata ( listen) is a town in Charles County, Maryland, United States. The population was 8,753 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Charles County.
According to an unconfirmed local story, the town was named by one Colonel Samuel Chapman, whose family owned 6,000 acres (24 km2) of land in Charles County. The Colonel traveled to South America with his son George, who had contracted tuberculosis, in search of a cure. In his travels, the Colonel had apparently encountered the Río de la Plata, which flows through Argentina and Uruguay, thus naming a portion of his property "La Plata."
In the 1870s, a section of the Pennsylvania Railroad had been constructed through the town of La Plata, leading to its 1888 incorporation.
The La Plata courthouse had been built soon after the 1819 Port Tobacco courthouse caught fire in 1895 under suspicious circumstances. In 1904, the historic Christ Episcopal Church in Port Tobacco, which dates to 1683 and was reconstructed in 1884, was dismantled and its stones were then transported by oxen and cart to its current lot in La Plata.
In 1940, the opening of the then Potomac River Bridge (later, the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge), which carries U.S. Route 301 over the Potomac River, provided a link to King George, Virginia and brought long-distance east coast traffic through the town as an alternative to U.S. 1 and, later, Interstate 95.
La Plata is located at 38°32′3″N 76°58′24″W (38.534258, -76.973377).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 7.45 square miles (19.30 km2), of which, 7.40 square miles (19.17 km2) is land and 0.05 square miles (0.13 km2) is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, La Plata has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
The median income for a household in the town was $56,490, and the median income for a family was $66,288. Males had a median income of $42,492 versus $32,125 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,669. About 8.3% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.0% of those under age 18 and 18.1% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 8,753 people, 3,062 households, and 2,091 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,182.8 inhabitants per square mile (456.7/km2). There were 3,234 housing units at an average density of 437.0 per square mile (168.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 66.3% White, 26.7% African American, 0.5% Native American, 2.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.7% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.2% of the population.
There were 3,062 households of which 38.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.6% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 31.7% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.17.
The median age in the town was 38.4 years. 24.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27% were from 25 to 44; 26.4% were from 45 to 64; and 13.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.
La Plata is largely a residential community. Some residents work for the Charles County government, while others commute to Waldorf or the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas for work, including to Andrews Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The town is experiencing a transformation into a thriving business and commercial center, thanks to development of office buildings and the town's recent reconstruction.
Historic Mount Carmel (1790), a Catholic convent, is just outside La Plata, near the main campus of the College of Southern Maryland.
La Plata has county offices, University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (recently enlarged), the main campus of the College of Southern Maryland, a community theater (Port Tobacco Players), a large outdoor athletic complex, a large construction business, two nursing homes, and a host of stores and restaurants, in addition to a twice-weekly farmers' market. At the north edge of town are Walmart and Target department stores, three supermarkets, a Lowe's home-improvement store, and two all-night drugstores. Rosewick Road is connected with St. Charles Parkway to adjacent Waldorf, providing drivers an alternative to using U.S. Route 301.
Public schools in La Plata include La Plata High School, Milton Somers Middle School, Walter Mitchell Elementary, and Mary Matula Elementary.
La Plata has been affected by two major tornadoes in its history.
The first occurred on November 9, 1926. This tornado killed 16 people, thirteen of them in the La Plata Elementary School, which was destroyed. It was estimated to have been an F3 on the Fujita scale.
On April 28, 2002, an F4 tornado cut a 24-mile-long (39 km) swath through Charles County, with areas around La Plata damaged most severely. This tornado caused four deaths. Local officials credited federal- and state-assisted new construction efforts with helping them to remodel the downtown area following the tornado, as several new public buildings replaced some of those damaged there. A new La Plata Town Hall, for example, became Southern Maryland's first LEED certified building, and an old building considered historic by local residents, which housed a CVS Pharmacy store at the time of the tornado, was rebuilt in a new location after the storm. In the days after the tornado, help was provided by twenty-seven different jurisdictions, as well as the nearby Amish community in St. Mary's County.
For details on the tornado outbreak of which the 2002 tornado was a part, see the information on the Midwest to Mid-Atlantic United States tornado outbreak of 2002.
1963-1967 Lowell E. Hawthorne
1967-1973 Raymond T. Tilghman
1973-1983 Victor B. Bowling, Jr.
1983-2005 William F. Eckman
2005-2008 Eugene Ambrogio
2008-2017 Roy G. Hale
2017- Jeannine Elizabeth James