The University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) is a large, public university in College Park, Maryland. The university was founded in 1856 as Maryland Agricultural College. The first class began in 1989 on a 420 acre campus.
The campus was used as an army camp, first for Union soldiers, then for Confederate soldiers, during the Civil War. (There were sympathies for both sides at the university.) After the war the school went into bankruptcy and was converted to a boys’ preparatory high school for a couple years, the regained its legs as a state school in 1867.
In 1916 the school was renamed Maryland State College and opened to women. In 1920 the first graduate program began. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that the school officially became the University of Maryland and designated the flagship campus of the state of Maryland’s university system. Today, more than 37,000 students attend UMCP.
UMCP is home to several impressive and unique features, both traditional and contemporary. On the one hand, many of the buildings are aged, modest, and traditional, with trademark red brick Georgian architecture. On the other hand, newer buildings are larger—the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is the single largest public building in the state—and cutting-edge, with a huge number of silver and gold LEED buildings.
One unique feature on the UMCP campus is “The Point of Failure”, the spot where the college’s original building burnt down in 1912. A sign on the campus warns student that stepping on the spot will prevent you from graduating in four years. Another is the well-known statue of a Diamondback terrapin known as “Testudo” is one of the feature landmarks of the campus. Many consider Testudo to be lucky, and students often rub his nose before exams or leave him offerings.
Today, the campus spans 1,250 acres. It is particularly well-known for its gardens and trees. There is a 400 acre urban forest with a system of trails, including portions of longer backpacking trails that extend past the campus in both directions. The university has several tours of its arboretums and greenery, such as a tree walking tour which visits 56 different species on campus.