About This Place
La Plata (i/ləpleɪtə/, unlike the famous river in Argentina) is a town in Charles County, Maryland, United States. The population was 6,551 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Charles County.
According to one of several legends, the town was given its name by Colonel Samuel Chapman, whose family owned 6,000 acres (24 km²) of land in Southern Maryland, including what would become the areas of La Plata and Port Tobacco. The Colonel traveled to Central and South America with his son George, who had contracted tuberculosis, in search of a cure. In his travels, the Colonel was impressed with the La Plata River in Argentina, so he decided to name a portion of his property "La Plata" after the river.
The town was founded approximately 1895 after the river flowing into the previous County seat, Port Tobacco (a few miles to the west), silted up, ending that town's utility as a port. At the same time, a new railroad line made La Plata attractive as a new county seat location. The Courthouse was built there after the Port Tobacco courthouse burned down (arson suspected, but unproven). Christ Episcopal Church was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in La Plata. In 1940, the opening of the then "Potomac River Bridge" (later renamed the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge), which carries U.S. Highway 301 over the Potomac River, provided a link to Virginia and brought many long-distance east coast thru-travelers through the town as an alternative to using urban U.S. 1 and, later, the often-congested Interstate 95.