Bel Air‘s identity has gone through several incarnations since 1780. Aquilla Scott, who had inherited land known as “Scott’s Improvement Enlarged,” planned the town on a portion that he called “Scott’s Old Fields.” Four years later, the town had expanded as local politicians, merchants, and innkeepers purchased lots from Scott, and the county commissioners decided to change its name to the more appealing “Belle Aire.” In his deeds, Scott dropped one letter, renaming the town, “Bell Aire.” Around 1798, court records dropped two more letters, and “Bel Air” was born.
During this period, Bel Air began to rise in prominence. In 1782, just two years after its founding, it became Harford’s county seat, and Daniel Scott (Aquilla’s son) started building a courthouse on Main Street. Although the town limits in the late 18th century encompassed nothing more than the two sides of Main Street, the days following the Civil War saw a building and land-development boom that remains in full swing to this day.
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