Olney History


    Olney no longer resembles the sleepy rural crossroads village of the 1700s. While the intersection of Maryland Routes 108 and 97 (George Avenue) still form the town's commercial core, the present Olney is home to more than 250 businesses and more than 30,000 residents. Numerous clusters of houses, townhouses and condominiums radiate in all directions from the main intersection.

    Farming was the primary occupation of the villagers in 1879, when land sold for a mere four dollars per acre. Surrounding villages were once more prosperous than Olney. Brookeville, just 2 miles to the north, had a population of 250. It served as the nation's capital for a day in August 1814, when the British invaded Washington, D.C. and James Madison fled the White House. To the west is Laytonsville, where 100 families lived. Both communities incorporated in the 1800s.

    To the east was a community of Quakers located in Sandy Spring, and this was considered the cultural center of the surrounding villages. Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, Sandy Spring boasted blacksmiths, carpenters and merchants, as well as three mills which served surrounding residents. Sandy Spring National Bank was established there, along with Montgomery Mutual Insurance Company, and a circulating library.

    Now, Olney is the last suburban outpost in upper northeast Montgomery County, Maryland, with many residents working as far away as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and even Northern Virginia. Traffic fills the roads that were originally carved for farmers to haul produce to market. Yet Olney is successful in maintaining much of its old-time character while growing into a modern community.

    Taking a closer look, a traveler can find many bits of history, such as an 1817 house built for the farmer who patented the first refrigerator; an 1838 homestead used as a private girl's boarding school, and Civil War bullets and badges hidden in the dirt behind a nearby shopping center. People can raise their families in a community while owning a flourishing business or working right in town.

    Olney offers all the amenities of small-town living within easy access to numerous urban attractions in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

    Historical Dates

    1720- Original land grant of 2,550 acres from King George III

    1760 - Area named Fair Hill after construction of first residence

    1800 - Olney House built and named after Olney, England

    1814 - Brookeville served as U.S. Capital for one day when President James Madison fled The White House to escape a British invasion

    1826 - Mechanicsville Post Office established at Fair Hill, then a Quaker farm

    1849 - Tollgates on Brookeville-Washington Turnpike, now Georgia Avenue (Route 97)

    1851 - Olney Post Office established

    1864 - Rebel and Union soldiers passed through Olney

    1880 - Olney population reached 80

    1978 - Intersection of Route 97 and 108 demolished for widening

    1994 - Olney population reached 29,500

    1994 - Brookeville celebrated its Bicentennial

    1995 - Montgomery General Hospital celebrated its 75th anniversary

    1996 - Completion of Route 108 widening project

    1997 - Grand Opening of new Sandy Spring Museum

    1997 - Grand Opening of Olney Police Satellite Station

    2007 - Money Magazine's Top 100 Places to live: #17