History of Hanover, Maryland

Last updated September 27, 2007



What did Hanover, Maryland look like before you moved in? A few weeks prior, your lot might have held a house undergoing its finishing touches. A year prior, it may have been a piece of flat ground with wooden stakes lining the corners and edges. But long, long ago, it was immensely different.

I'd love to be able to tell you that some spectacular Civil War battles were fought in Hanover or that a President stayed at an inn on land now contained in the Villages of Dorchester. Unfortunately, I cannot. In fact, I had a hard time trying to come up with any historical information about our beloved city due to the fact that our town is so new. It's like trying to write a life story about an infant...the data just ain't there.

I began my search at the Odenton Library. They recommended I check the Annapolis Library since it has an area called the "Maryland Room." I did just that and only came up with a few maps, none of which date earlier than 1957. Hence, most of my report on the history of Hanover is really more of a "pre-history"...that is, I focus on the prehistoric information, which was in much greater abundance.

Have you had a chance to walk along Piney Run Creek? This is the little stream that flows behind the homes between the east side of Dorchester Boulevard and Arundel Mills Mall.


There's an overgrown, tick infested dirt road just east of the stream that I've walked from route 100 to the Wal Mart.


If you've explored this area in the summertime, you might have seen quite a few dragonflies or their close cousin, the damselfly. Below is a female ebony jewelwing damselfly I saw behind Rutland Way near Piney Run Creek.


The Hanover area is very old (from a geological point of view) and so are dragonflies. In fact, dragonflies are the most ancient of all animals, dating back at least 320 million years. Be glad these prehistoric insects are no longer with us since the ancestors of the modern day dragonfly had a wingspan of 30 inches. There are currently 180 species of dragonflies in Maryland though 108 of them are considered rare or uncommon. Whether or not you find these insects pretty, I'm sure you'll want to keep them around (at least during the summer) since they feed on mosquitoes [1].

About 300 million years ago, the Appalachian ranges were born when several plates collided and formed the supercontinent known as Pangea. Back then, Hanover formed part of the heartlands of Pangea as it was near the center [2]. In the map below, the red dot is the location of Baltimore, 240 million years ago, during the Triassic period [3].


Around 140 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, the tiny Atlantic Ocean was widening.


The Hanover area was home to a variety of dinosaurs such as Acrocanthosaurus, the largest meat-eater ever found in the southern United States.



One of my personal favorites, Astrodon (Astrodon johnstoni), was found nearby in Bladensburg and Arbutus. Who knows? Your home may once have been home to this 60 foot long giant. In 1998, Astrodon was named the Maryland state dinosaur [4].



When Acrocanthosaurus and Astrodon walked the earth, the climate of Hanover was much different than it is today. Back then, Texas and Maryland shared the same coastline and climate.

Numerous other dinosaurs made the corridor between Baltimore and Washington D.C. their home. In fact, the stretch along highway 95 came to be known as "Dinosaur Alley." This area is the richest dinosaur fossil site ever found in the Lower Cretaceous of the East Coast. You might even see the remains of some of the previous residents at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. [5].

Dinosaurs weren't the only things alive back then. A variety of prehistoric plants also shared the land. Though they have long since died, their fossils remain.


Fast forward the clock to 35.5 million years ago. A bolide (a bright meteor that strikes the earth) impacted the eastern shore in the late Eocene epoch. This collision had a significant affect on the terrain and the wildlife. Though this wasn't the meteor blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs (this actually occurred about 30 million years prior), it did form what we now know as the Chesapeake Bay [6][7].

In historic (rather than prehistoric) times, the Hanover area was largely undeveloped. Despite the rich history of surrounding towns like Elkridge and Odenton, Hanover was mostly just an area with a few dirt roads passing through. Alongside the empty fields and forests, Wright Road (which now connects to Dorchester Boulevard), Dorsey Road, route 175, and a few trailer parks were present [8].


The soil in our area was (and probably still is) comprised of sand-gravel facies (shown in pink below) and silt-clay facies (shown in blue below). Both these substances are of what is called the Potomac Group. This material was created during the Cretaceous Period [9].


In another map (shown below), parts of Hanover were once sites of sand, gravel, clay, ocher, stone, or lignite operations. Spots closer to the Baltimore Washington Parkway were mined for iron ore [10].


Hanover, Maryland was pretty much unknown to most of the state until the 1.3 million square foot (gross leasable area) Arundel Mills Mall opened in November 2000 [11]. A multitude of other stores soon followed.

With the abundance of jobs in the Fort Meade area, developers sought to build housing wherever they could. Undeveloped areas such as Hanover became prime real estate. Within just a few short years, the area has seen explosive growth and it will likely continue to grow for some time.

Maybe some day, we'll have a rich history where we can boast about a world leader visiting our city or maybe have some famous person declare Hanover, Maryland as their hometown. But until then, we will just have to let our imagination paint a picture and tell a story of what the area was once like.

Special thanks for the Maryland Science Center for allowing me to take photos of their exhibit depicting prehistoric Maryland. I strongly urge everyone to visit the Center.

Also, a warm thank you to the Annapolis Public Library and the librarians who spent so much time helping me search for documents.

[1] "Marvels of Mid-Air: Maryland's Dragonflies," The Maryland Natural Resource, Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 2007. Published by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

[2] Wikipedia: Appalachian Mountains

[3] "Continents on the Move," software at the Maryland Science Center.

[4] Wikipedia: Astrodon

[5] Maryland Geological Survey Fact Sheet 12

[6] Wikipedia: Chesapeake Bay impact crater

[7] Dinosaur Extinction

[8] "United States Department of the Interior Geological Survey Map." Published for civil use by the Geological Survey. Made in 1957 then photorevised in 1966 and 1974.

[9] "Geologic Map of Anne Arundel County" by John D. Glaser. 1976.

[10] "Anne Arundel County Topographic Map, Mineral Resources and Mined Land Inventory" by Karen R. Kuff. Published by the Maryland Geological Survey, 1976.

[11] Wikipedia: Arundel Mills