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Damascus is a census-designated place and an unincorporated area in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States. In the early part of the 20th century, there was an incorporated municipality here for about a quarter century, but it no longer exists. The name "Damascus" comes from a reference in the Bible, presumably to Damascus, Syria, and was first used in an official document in 1816, when the United States Congress approved a postal route through the area, operated by Edward Hughes.
As an unincorporated area, Damascus' boundaries are not officially defined. Damascus is recognized by the United States Census Bureau as a Census-designated Place, and by the United States Geological Survey as a populated place located at 39°16′16″N, 77°12′22″W (39.271040, -77.206098)GR1.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 11,430 people, 3,710 households, and 3,079 families residing in the area. The population density was 458.7/km² (1,187.5/mi²). There were 3,773 housing units at an average density of 151.4/km² (392.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the area was 89.66% White, 4.63% African American, 0.24% Native American, 2.21% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.28% from other races, and 1.95% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.31% of the population.
There were 3,710 households out of which 52.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.0% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.0% were non-families. 13.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.08 and the average family size was 3.38.
In the area, the population was spread out with 34.0% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 5.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males.
The median income for a household in the area was $71,447, and the median income for a family was $76,462. Males had a median income of $51,590 versus $38,731 for females. The per capita income for the area was $26,659. About 4.2% of families and 5.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.8% of those under age 18 and 0.9% of those age 65 or over.
James Madison, the fourth U.S. President, appointed Edward Hughes postmaster of Damascus. Hughes laid out and planned the town. Hughes received permission from Congress for a postal route through town. Hughes called his town "The Pleasant Plains of Damascus" after Damascus, Syria (a biblical reference). A newspaper in Frederick, Maryland, wrote of Hughes's growing town: "There is at this place an extensive opening for mechanics of all the different kinds, and it bids fair to improve very fast; ... There is at present two blacksmith shops, a saddler's shop and a store in the place -- a tailor, a wheel wright, and a shoemaker are much wanted, and would meet with great encouragement." This was the Damascus of 1816. The new township drew settlers from Anne Arundel as well as from Montgomery County. The town was incorporated from 1890 to 1914, when the Old Quaker Road, used since Revolutionary times and before, was paved into a state highway. The town remains a commercial center for rural communities, although it is more developed today.
On September 12, 1862, U.S. Federal troops marched through the "village" of Damascus via what is now Route 27 on their way to the town of Sharpsburg, MD, where they engaged Confederate troops commanded by General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam.
In spite of spiraling population growth and encroaching urban development, Damascus retains its rural, small-town character. The Damascus Community Fair -- a fully agricultural fair that has been in operation since 1940 -- attracts thousands of visitors annually in the first weekend of September. 4-H clubs are thriving, and in the past 10 years three new equestrian centers have opened within 5 miles of downtown Damascus.
Damascus High School (DHS) is well-known regionally and nationally for its strong academic program as well as its championship athletic teams, known as the Swarmin' Hornets. Unlike most high schools in Montgomery County, Damascus benefits from a large, well-funded, well-equipped and well-managed youth athletic program, the Damascus Sports Association (DSA). DSA is responsible for developing young male and female athletes to the highest level, including weekend travel teams. Consequently, by the time these athletes reach DHS, many of them have been teammates in baseball, softball, football, soccer and lacrosse for years. The high school's dozens of state championship banners attest to the effectiveness of the DSA feeder program.
Former U.S. Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell was the speaker for Damascus High School's Class of 2000 commencement ceremony at the high school's football stadium in downtown Damascus.
Damascus Post 171 of the American Legion is a cornerpost of the community. Since its founding after World War II, Post 171 has been helping the Damascus community with countless charitable and civic endeavors, ranging from installing Christmas decorations downtown to sponsoring high school scholarships. Post 171 is host to excellent annual ceremonies commemorating Memorial Day and Veterans Day on the grounds of the Post home. Post 171 also sponsors an American Junior Legion baseball team and, as might be expected, Damascus Post 171 is a perennial champion.
Montgomery Fire & Rescue Company 13, with headquarters in Damascus, is one of the oldest companies in the Montgomery County fire service. Originating in 1940 as an all-Volunteer force, Company 13 transitioned to a mix of full-time professional paid men and volunteers in the late 1980s. Today the company is responsible for a huge, sprawling residential area, as well as the downtown area, which has also grown significantly in the past 10 years. Company 13 retains its reputation as one of the best trained, best equipped fire & rescue units in the county.