How much do you know about the cities of Montgomery County, Maryland? Did you know that most places in Montgomery County aren’t even cities? Some of the county’s most well known places—Bethesda, Germantown, Silver Spring, and Chevy Chase, to name a few—are actually Census Designated Places (CDPs).
Officially, the only three cities in Montgomery County are Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Tacoma Park. But those three cities account for just 16.1% of the total population of Montgomery County. More than four out of every five Montgomery County residents live in CDPs.
That may seem like a bit of trivia, but it’s one step closer to understanding all the places of Montgomery County. Here are the ones that everyone should know—and a few more bits of trivia you’ll enjoy about each.
Cities in Montgomery County
Gaithersburg and Rockville have enjoyed remarkable growth in recent years, rising in population by 16.1% and 25.4% respectively. What’s fueled that growth? High-tech businesses. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has a nearly billion-dollar budget and employs 2,115 Montgomery County residents, making it the city’s largest employer.
Major U.S. institutions often attract private businesses that hold contracts with government agencies or draw on the abundance of high-tech talent. In the case of Gaithersburg, this holds true: BroadSoft has its headquarters in the city, and three biotechnology companies also rank among the city’s top-ten employers. (Until recently, IBM maintained a significant presence in Gaithersburg and was the city’s leading employer.)
And what about Rockville? Forty-four of the 118 companies that maintain their headquarters in Montgomery County are located in Rockville. Biotechnology businesses dominate, explaining in part why the average household income in Rockville, some $98,530 in 2014, dwarfs the U.S. average of 51,939. In fact, each of the 52 places in Montgomery County has a median household income that exceeds the national average by at least $11,000.
The far-smaller Takoma Park, a planned bedroom community just outside of Washington DC, has still earned renown for its folk festival each September. The festival, a community staple since 1978, is free to the public and features more than fifty musical acts.
Census Designated Places in Montgomery County
Perhaps more than any other county in the United States, Montgomery County has made a name for its census designated places. Census designated places are an alternative grouping for communities that are not incorporated as cities, towns, or villages. While they have no legal boundaries, some—including prominent communities like Bethesda and Chevy Chase—are recognized throughout the nation as leading communities.
What makes for a “leading community” may mean different things to different people, but it’s difficult to argue with some of the core statistics about these areas. For example, Eighty-five percent of Bethesda residents have a college degree. What makes Bethesda one of the best-educated places in America?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) anchors the local economy, and dozens of supporting private businesses have located or relocated to be close to the national center of medical research. The hundreds of Ph.D.s and MDs that work at public and private facilities account for Bethesda’s remarkable educational attainment levels.
Higher education correlates with higher wealth—the median household income in Bethesda is more than $145,000—but wealth is more than just median income. It’s also an abundance of cultural institutions, museums, and restaurants, all of which flourish in Montgomery County CDPs.
Of all CDPs, Chevy Chase, located adjacent to Bethesda, has the highest percentage of college graduates, an astounding 94%, and the highest median household income, more than $250,000. Bethesda and Chevy Chase are 2 of 21 CDPs that have median household incomes in excess of $100,000; in 10 CDPs, more than 70% of adults hold a college degree.
Unlike Bethesda, Chevy Chase has no economic anchor—it is a bedroom community for Bethesda and the nation’s capital. Were it not for the NIH migration from Washington to Montgomery County, Bethesda might have had a similar development path.
When it comes to population, CDPs also lead the way: Germantown, adjacent to Rockville, and Silver Spring, between Bethesda and Takoma Park, are the two most populous places in Montgomery County. In fact, 13 of the 15 most populous places are all CDPs.
Towns and Villages in Montgomery County
The legal definition of a town or village varies from state to state. In Maryland, it means nothing—incorporated areas are free to incorporate as cities, towns, or villages. Of course, we all have expectations that towns are smaller than cities and villages smaller than towns, but these expectations don’t always hold true. Three villages —Chevy Chase Section Five, Chevy Chase Section Three, and North Chevy Chase—are larger than five Montgomery County towns.
The namesake “Chevy Chase” appears frequently in Montgomery County. In addition to serving as one of the county’s leading CDPs and inclusion in the name of three villages, a separate Chevy Chase is also Montgomery County’s second largest town.
To round out the list, there’s Chevy Chase Village—which is a town. (The name “Chevy Chase” was imported into the colonial United States from a ballad written about a fourteenth-century conflict between English and Scottish noblemen.)
Poolesville, Maryland, with a population of 5,201, is the county’s largest town. The smallest incorporated areas, all towns, are Glen Echo, Barnesville, and Brookeville. None has a population above 300 people.