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The town of Bel Air is the county seat of Harford County, Maryland. According to the 2010 United States Census the population of the town was 10,120.
Bel Air is located at 39°32′12″N 76°20′54″W (39.536707, -76.348280).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 3.03 square miles (7.85 km2), of which, 3.02 square miles (7.82 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.
Bel Air is a transition between the humid continental and humid subtropical climates. Bel Air features hot, often humid summers, mild, wet springs, pleasant falls and cool to cold winters. The average precipitation for Bel Air is around 40-43 inches while snowfall averages 19–24 inches.
Bel Air is located on U.S. Route 1, and 6.6 miles (10.6 km) north of Interstate 95. Route 1 has both a bypass around Bel Air and Hickory, and a business route snaking through downtown. Both are connected to I-95 by Maryland Route 24 (at Edgewood) and Maryland Route 543 (at Riverside). It is also located 27 miles (43.4 km) northeast of Baltimore, 66 miles (106 km) northeast of Washington, D.C., 78 miles (126 km) southwest of Philadelphia and 167 miles (267 km) southwest of New York City.
In the mid 20th century the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad ("Ma and Pa") ran through town, but the tracks were dismantled in 1958. The station was located (at milepost 26.5) on Rockspring Ave. between Broadway and Ellendale St. Much of the railroad's former route in and around Bel Air is now the Ma and Pa walking trail, which cuts through various wooded sections of town in and around Heavenly Waters Park.
Bel Air's primary law enforcement agency is the Bel Air Police Department which was established in 1874. Its headquarters is located at 39 N. Hickory Avenue. Overseeing the department is Charles Moore, lifelong Harford County resident and former Maryland State Police captain.
As of the census of 2010, there were 10,120 people, 4,491 households, and 2,568 families residing in the town. The population density was 3,453.9 inhabitants per square mile (1,333.6/km2). There were 4,744 housing units at an average density of 1,619.1 per square mile (625.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 89.8% White, 4.4% African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.8% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.7% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.3% of the population.
There were 4,491 households of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.0% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.8% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.89.
The median age in the town was 40.3 years. 20.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.1% were from 25 to 44; 26.1% were from 45 to 64; and 18.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 47.8% male and 52.2% female.
The census of 2000 reports that there were 10,080 people, 4,235 households, and 2,511 families residing in the town. The population density was 3,583.7 people per square mile (1,385.0/km²). There were 4,444 housing units at an average density of 1,580.0 per square mile (610.6/km²).
There were 4,235 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.7% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.94.
The median age was 39 years.
6.4% of the population and 4.0% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the individuals living in poverty, 7.6% were under the age of 18 and 6.5% were 65 or older.
Bel Air's identity has gone through several incarnations since 1780. Aquilla Scott, who had inherited land known as "Scott's Improvement Enlarged," planned the town on a portion that he called "Scott's Old Fields." Four years later, the town had expanded as local politicians, merchants, and innkeepers purchased lots from Scott, and the county commissioners decided to change its name to the more appealing "Belle Aire." In his deeds, Scott dropped one letter, renaming the town, "Bell Aire." Around 1798, court records dropped two more letters, and "Bel Air" was born.
During this period, Bel Air began to rise in prominence. In 1782, just two years after its founding, it became Harford's county seat, and Daniel Scott (Aquilla's son) started building a courthouse on Main Street. Although the town limits in the late 18th century encompassed nothing more than the two sides of Main Street, the days following the Civil War saw a building and land-development boom that remains in full swing to this day.
Originally known as "Scott's Old Fields" Bel Air was part of a land grant issued to Daniel Scott in 1731. In March 1782 "Belle Aire" was designated the county seat of Harford County. At the turn of the twentieth century the "e" was dropped and the second "l" and its companion "e" gave way a few years later. The town's incorporation was effective in 1874. The town began with just 42 lots along Main Street centering on the Court House and the county jail and sheriff's house. Over the years, the population grew slowly to about 200 residents by 1865. The introduction of the canning industry, the Ma & Pa railroad and related financial businesses jump started the growth after the Civil War. Although the town experienced periods of rapid growth followed by extremely slow growth over the next century, Bel Air's role as the center of government and commerce continued to expand.
Since 1980, the town and its surrounding suburbs have grown substantially. Today, Bel Air is the center for governmental, educational, cultural, medical, and commercial institutions in the county.
In the early 20th century, several fires swept through the downtown area, notably in 1900 and 1942. In 1972, another fire struck, decimating the east side of Main Street and causing $2 million in damage.
In 1970, H. Rap Brown, a member of the Black Panthers and the fourth Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) , was charged with instigating a riot after a rally in Cambridge; a change in venue brought his trial to Bel Air. Two black militants drove to Bel Air in a truck laden with plastic explosives, intending to attack the courthouse. Due to heavy security at the courthouse and the two men driving truck fled on Route 1. The explosives detonated and killed both men. The blast left a crater in the road and blew out the windows of a nearby toll house. Brown would go on to escape the night of his trial.
Into the 1950s, the town hosted horse racing at Bel Air Racetrack, which stood where the Harford Mall is today.
The Bel Air Armory, Bel Air Courthouse Historic District, Broom's Bloom, D. H. Springhouse, Dibb House, Graham-Crocker House, Graystone Lodge, Harford Furnace Historic District, Harford National Bank, Hays House, Hays-Heighe House, Heighe House, Joshua's Meadows, Liriodendron, Mount Adams, Norris-Stirling House, Odd Fellows Lodge, Priest Neal's Mass House and Mill Site, Proctor House, Thomas Run Church, Tudor Hall, The Vineyard, and Woodview are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.<ref name="nris">National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
The three small plane airports in the metropolitan area are:
Media related to Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland at Wikimedia Commons
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