Fast-growing Frederick has edged Rockville to become the second-largest city in Maryland, according to Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.
“I think it reflects a growth trend,” said Joe Lebherz, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Frederick County. “We’ve got a great city here and people see that, and I know they’re going to keep on coming.”
Baltimore is still the largest city by far, with 675,401 residents. But Frederick’s population jumped 15 percent between 1990 and 1996, to 46,227, putting it slightly ahead of Rockville and its 46,019 residents.
Rockville had held the title of No. 2 city in Maryland since the 1970 census, when the growing suburb topped Hagerstown.
Losers in the population column said there are more important things to their cities than numbers.
“I don’t think you can compare Frederick to Rockville,” said Michelle Saxty, executive director of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce. “Rockville has so much more to offer. Frederick may be higher density as far as residential, but where do people in Frederick go to do their shopping?”
That attitude rankled a Frederick official.
“Frederick is trying really hard to try to maintain its own identity and not be like Rockville,” said Frances Baker, president pro tem of Frederick’s Board of Aldermen. “We don’t want to be Everywhere, U.S.A. We want to be Frederick, with its historical past and its heritage.”
The new numbers might help end a six-month dispute between Frederick, Rockville and Gaithersburg over which city ranks No. 2.
In March, Gaithersburg Mayor Ed Bohrer claimed his city had overtaken Rockville as No. 2, following a count from the Gaithersburg Planning Department. But the Census estimates Gaithersburg’s population at 45,361, although the city is rapidly gaining on Rockville.
Saxty said she might continue to call her city the second- largest in the state until the next exact census count in 2000.
More than pride is at stake in the census. The state government bases its to municipalities on the population estimates and the 2000 census will determine boundaries for congressional and legislative districts.
Meanwhile, Baltimore City’s population has dropped to its lowest level since the 1910 census. Charm City has lost more than 60,000 people since 1990.
Baltimore is now the 15th largest city in the country, down from 14 in 1990. Jacksonville, Fla., now outranks Baltimore by 4,391 people.
The city now has fewer residents than Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and, for the first time, Baltimore County.
Among Maryland cities with more than 10,000 people, Cumberland, Cambridge, Hagerstown and Laurel also dropped in population.
Westminster is Maryland’s fastest-growing city among those with more than 10,000 people. The Carroll County seat grew by 15.4 percent between 1990 and 1996, reaching a population of 15,073.
Marylanders looking for a balance between the sprawling suburbs and declining central cities might want to try Aberdeen. Between 1990 and 1996, the town grew by a grand total of three people. City 1990 Population
1996 Population (estimate)
Percent change, 1990-96 Baltimore 736,014 675,401 -8.2 Frederick 40,816
15.0 Rockville 44,830
2.7 Gaithersburg 39,676
-1.9 Annapolis 33,195
0.1 College Park 23,714
-5.8 Greenbelt 20,561
6.2 Salisbury 20,592
-1.9 Takoma Park
5.8 Aberdeen 13,087
0.0 New Carrollton 12,002
6.7 Cambridge 11,514
8.8 Havre de Grace 8,952