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Bethesda is a census designated place in southern Montgomery Countymarker, Marylandmarker, USAmarker, just northwest of Washington, D.C.marker It takes its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting Housemarker (1820, rebuilt 1850), which in turn took its name from Jerusalemmarker's Pool of Bethesdamarker. (In Aramaic, beth hesda means "house of mercy".)

Bethesda is one of the most affluent and highly educated locales in the country, placing first in Forbes list of America's most educated small towns and eleventh on's list of top-earning American towns. In April 2009, Forbes ranked Bethesda second on its list of "America's Most Livable Cities." In October 2009, based on education, income, health, and fitness, Total Beauty ranked Bethesda first on its list of the U.S.'s "Top 10 Hottest-Guy Cities."

As an unincorporated area, Bethesda has no official boundaries. The United States Census Bureau defines a Census-Designated Place named Bethesda whose center is located at 38°59' North, 77°7' West. The United States Geological Survey has defined Bethesda as an area whose center is at , slightly different from the Census Bureau's definition. Other definitions are used by the Bethesda Urban Planning District, the United States Postal Service, and other organizations. According to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, the community had a total population of 55,277. Most of Bethesda's residents are in Maryland Legislative District 16. The National Institutes of Healthmarker has its main campus in Bethesda.


Bethesda is situated along a major thoroughfare that was originally the route of an ancient Native American trail. Between 1805 and 1820, it was developed into a toll road called the Washington and Rockville Turnpike, which carried tobacco and other products between Georgetownmarker and Rockvillemarker, and north to Frederickmarker. A small settlement grew around a store and tollhouse along the turnpike. By 1862, the community was known as "Darcy's Store" after the owner of a local establishment, William E. Darcy. The community was renamed in 1871 by the new postmaster, Robert Franck, after the Bethesda Meeting House, a Presbyterian church built in 1820 on the present site of the Cemetery of the Bethesda Meeting House. The church burnt in 1849 and was rebuilt the same year about 100 yards south at its present site.

Throughout the 1800s, Bethesda was a small community, consisting of mostly a post office, a blacksmith shop, a church and school, and a few houses and stores. It was not until the installation of a streetcar line and the beginnings of suburbanization in the early 1900s that Bethesda began to grow in population. Subdivisions began to appear on old farmland, becoming the neighborhoods of Drummond, Woodmont, Edgemoor, and Battery Park. Further north, wealthy men like Luke I. Wilson, Brainard Parker, Gilbert Grosvenor, and Merle Thorp built mansions and helped establish the original Woodmont Country Club on land that is now part of the National Institutes of Healthmarker (NIH) campus. Thorp's mansion, "Pook's Hill" (on the site of the current neighborhood of the same name), became the home in exile of the Norwegian Royal Family during the Second World War.

That war, and the expansion of government that it created, further fed the rapid expansion of Bethesda. Both the National Naval Medical Centermarker (1939) and the NIH complex (1953) were built just to the north of the developing downtown. This, in turn, drew further government contractors, medical professionals, and other businesses to the area. In recent years, Bethesda has consolidated as the major urban core and employment center of southwestern Montgomery County.


Bethesda is located at (38.984660, -77.113135) .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 34.2 km² (13.2 mi²). 34.0 km² (13.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.1 mi²) of it (0.38%) is water.

The main commercial corridor that runs through Bethesda is Maryland Route 355 (known as Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda and as Rockville Pike and Hungerford Drive in more northern communities), which, to the north, connects Bethesda with the communities of Kensingtonmarker and Rockvillemarker, ending, after several name changes, in Frederick, Marylandmarker. Toward the South, Rockville Pike becomes Wisconsin Avenue near the NIHmarker Campus and continues beyond Bethesda through Chevy Chasemarker, Friendship Heights, Maryland and into Washington, DCmarker, ending in Georgetown.

The area commonly known as "downtown Bethesda" is centered at the intersection of Route 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) with Maryland Route 187 (Old Georgetown Road), and Maryland Route 410 (called "East-West Highway"). Much of the dense construction in that area followed the opening of the Bethesda stationmarker on the Red Line of the Washington Metromarker rapid transit system, also located at this intersection and the centerpiece of the Bethesda Metro Center development. The "downtown," which includes the restaurant districts of Bethesda Row and Woodmont Triangle, lies about 0.7 miles south of Bethesda's other Red Line stop, Medical Centermarker, which serves the NIH Campus, the National Naval Medical Centermarker, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciencesmarker.


As of the census of 2000, there were 55,277 people, 23,659 households, and 14,455 families residing in the defined area. The population density was 1,624.2/km² (4,205.8/mi²). There were 24,368 housing units at an average density of 716.0/km² (1,854.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the community was 85.86% White, 2.67% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 7.92% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.23% from other races, and 2.11% from two or more races. 5.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 23,659 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.4% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.9% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the community the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 27.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.0 males.

Bethesda is a very wealthy and well-educated area. According to the 2000 Census, Bethesda is the best-educated city in the United States of America with a population of 50,000 or more. 79% of residents 25 or older have bachelor's degrees and 49% have graduate or professional degrees. According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household is $117,723, and the median income for a family was $168,385. Males had a median income of $84,797 versus $57,569 for females. The per capita income for the area was $58,479. About 1.7% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.8% of those under age 18 and 4.1% of those age 65 or over. Many commute to Washington D.C.marker for work.

Bethesda is often associated with its neighboring communities, Potomac, MDmarker, Chevy Chase, MDmarker, Great Falls, VAmarker, and McLean, VAmarker for their similar demographics. In 2009, Self Magazine ranked Bethesda as the second healthiest place for women in the country, a year after being ranked number one.


Important institutions located in Bethesda include the National Institutes of Healthmarker campus, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Divisionmarker. Bethesda is also home to the National Naval Medical Centermarker soon to be Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, currently referred to as Bethesda Naval Hospital. The Bethesda Naval Hospital is also the place where the President goes to get his yearly check-up. Adjoining the hospital to the east is the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciencesmarker.

The headquarters of defense conglomerate Lockheed Martin, managed health care company Coventry Health Care and hotel and resort chains Marriott International and Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. are located in Bethesda. Software company Bethesda Softworks was originally located in Bethesda, but moved to Rockville, Marylandmarker in 1990. The Discovery Channel also had its headquarters in Bethesda before relocating to Silver Springmarker in 2004. On the professional services side, numerous banks (PNC, Wachovia, Chevy Chase Bank, which is headquartered in Bethesda) brokerage firms (SmithBarney, Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, Fidelity) and law firms (JDKatz, Paley Rothman, Learch Early & Brewer) maintain offices in Bethesda. Bethesda has two farmers markets, the Montgomery Farm Woman's Cooperative Market and the Bethesda Farmer's Market

Bethesda Avenue at night
Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) has developed much of the west side of Bethesda into an area called Bethesda Row. The vibrant district includes Barnes and Noble and an Apple Store. It was built in the early 1990s, Also located in downtown Bethesda is one of the Madonna of the Trail monuments, erected by the National Old Trails Association working in concert with the Daughters of the American Revolution. Judge Harry S. Truman, presided over the dedication of the Bethesda monument, on April 19, 1929. Nearby is the Bethesda Post Office. Also starting in the heart of downtown Bethesda, is the Capital Crescent Trailmarker which follows the old tracks of the B&O Railroad stretching from Georgetown, Washington, D.C.marker to Silver Spring, MDmarker.

The Writer's Center in Bethesda publishes Poet Lore, the longest continuously running poetry journal in the United States.

Bethesda Lane was built in 2008. This development, located near the corner of Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road, includes many new retail shops, a supermarket, restaurants, and luxury apartments.

Bethesda is also home of the AT&T National, Tiger Woods' golf tournament, the exclusive Burning Tree Club, the Bethesda Country Club, and the Bethesda Community Baseball Club which operates the Bethesda Big Train, a summer collegiate baseball team. Bethesda is also home to a men's fall league softball team, The Swamp Donkeys.

The series of books The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares take place in Bethesda, Maryland, as the author has ties to this area.


Public primary schools located in Bethesda include:
  • Ashburton Elementary School
  • Bannockburn Elementary School
  • Bethesda Elementary School
  • Bradley Hills Elementary School
  • Burning Tree Elementary School
  • Carderock Springs Elementary School
  • Glen Haven Elementary School
  • Seven Locks Elementary School
  • Westbrook Elementary School
  • Wyngate Elementary School
  • Wood Acres Elementary School

Public middle schools located in Bethesda include:

Public high schools located in Bethesda include:

Private schools located in Bethesda include:

Bethesda is also home to a federally funded and operated health science university, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciencesmarker (USU). The primary mission of USU is to prepare graduates for service in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Public Health Service. The university consists of the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, a medical school, and the Graduate School of Nursing, a nursing school.


Major companies

(*=corporate headquarters in area)

See also


  1. Gaynair, Gillian. "Bethesda Row to Welcome New Stores." Washington Business Journal (2007)

External links

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