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In the United States, an independent city is a city that is not in the territory of any
county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment ...
or counties and is considered a primary administrative division of its state. Independent cities are classified by the
United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, responsible for producing data about the American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, ...
as "
county equivalent A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William and Robert Chambers (publisher bo ...
s" and may also have similar governmental powers to a
consolidated city-county In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is formed when one or more cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in whi ...
. However, in the case of a consolidated city-county, a city and a county were merged into a unified jurisdiction in which the county at least nominally exists to this day, whereas an independent city was legally separated from any county or merged with a county that simultaneously ceased to exist even in name.Cities 101 -- Consolidations
from
National League of Cities The National League of Cities (NLC) is an advocacy organization in the United States that represents the country's 19,495 cities, towns, and villages along with 49 state municipal leagues. Created in 1924, it has evolved into a leading membership ...
Of the 41 independent U.S. cities, 38 are in
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

Virginia
, whose state constitution makes them a special case. The three independent cities outside Virginia are
Baltimore, Maryland Baltimore ( , locally: ) is the List of municipalities in Maryland, most populous city in the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as List of United States cities by population, the 30th most populous city in the United States, with an estimated po ...

Baltimore, Maryland
;
St. Louis, Missouri St. Louis () is the second-largest city in Missouri Missouri is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State ( ...

St. Louis, Missouri
; and
Carson City, Nevada Carson City, officially the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City, is an independent city An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity (such as a pro ...
. The most populous of them is Baltimore.


Virginia


History

In the
Commonwealth of Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...
, all municipalities incorporated as "cities" have been "independent cities", also called "free cities", since 1871, when a revised state constitution took effect following the
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon nove ...
and the creation of
West Virginia West Virginia () is a U.S. state, state in the Appalachian region, Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States.The United States Census Bureau, Census Burea ...
. Virginia's thirty-eight independent cities are not politically part of a county, even though geographically they may be completely surrounded by one. An independent city in Virginia may serve as the
county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government, or a county town, or the place where the central administration of a Township, commune is located. In countries with Fre ...
of an adjacent county, even though the city by definition is not part of that county. Some other Virginia municipalities, even though they may be more populous than some existing independent cities, are
incorporated town An incorporated town is a town that is a municipal corporation. Canada Incorporated towns are a form of local government in Canada, which is a responsibility of provincial rather than federal government. United States An incorporated town o ...
s. These towns always form part of a county. Incorporated towns have limited powers, varying by each charter. They typically share many aspects such as courts and public
school division A school division is a geographic division over which a school board A board of education, school committee or school board is the board of directors or board of trustees of a school, local school district or equivalent. The elected council det ...
s with the county they are within. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are two classes of city. The primary difference relates to the court system. A first-class city (e.g., Richmond) has its own
District Court District courts are a category of courts which exists in several nations, some call them "small case court" usually as the lowest level of the hierarchy. These include: Americas United States In the United States federal courts, the United Sta ...
and also its own
Circuit Court Circuit courts are court systems in several common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribun ...
. A second-class city (e.g. Norton or Emporia) has its own District Courts, but not its own Circuit Court. As a second-class city, Fairfax shares a Circuit Court with Fairfax County, while
Falls Church Falls Church is an independent city An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity (such as a province). Historical precursors In the Holy Roman Empire ...
shares a Circuit Court with adjacent Arlington County. In Virginia, a District Court is not a
court of record A court of record is a trial court A trial court or court of first instance is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized communi ...
, so all cases are heard by a judge; all
jury trials A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice ho ...
are heard in a Circuit Court. Three older Virginia counties, whose origins go back to the original eight
shires of Virginia The eight Shires of Virginia were formed in 1634 in the Virginia Colony , legislature = House of Burgesses The House of Burgesses was the elected representative element of the Virginia General Assembly The Virginia General Assembly ...
formed in 1634 in the
Colony of Virginia , legislature = House of Burgesses (1619–1776) , today = , demonym = , area_km2=, area_rank=, GDP_PPP=, GDP_PPP_year=, HDI=, HDI_year= The Colony of Virginia, chartered in 1606 and settled in 1607, was ...
, have or had the word ''city'' in their names; politically, however, they are counties. The independent cities were formed to centralize trading and legal matters as the older system of merchant ships cruising from plantation to plantation was inefficient. The colonial capital of
Williamsburg
Williamsburg
was created for this reason, being a port on the James River. Two of these counties are
Charles City County Charles City County is a county (United States), county located in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), U.S. commonwealth of Virginia. The county is situated southeast of Richmond, Virginia, Richmond and west of Jamestown, Virginia, Jamestown. It is ...
and
James City County James City County is a county (United States), county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the population was 67,009. Although politically separate from the county, the county seat is the adj ...
, whose names originated with earlier "incorporations" created in 1619 by the
Virginia Company The Virginia Company was an English trading companyTrading companies are business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling Product (business), products (such as goods and services). ...
as
Charles Cittie Charles City (or Charles Cittie as it was then called) was one of four incorporations established in the Virginia Colony in 1619 by the proprietor, the Virginia Company.Foley, Louise Pledge Heath (1978, 2002 reprint). ''Early Families Along the Ja ...
and James Cittie. Additionally,
Elizabeth City County Elizabeth City County was a County (United States), county in southeastern Virginia from 1634 until 1952 when it was merged into the city of Hampton, Virginia, Hampton. Originally created in 1634 as Elizabeth River Shire, it was one of eight shir ...
, which was originally part of the older Elizabeth Cittie, became extinct in 1952 when it was consolidated politically by mutual consent with the small City of Hampton, its county seat, and the Town of Phoebus. These merged entities became the current independent city of
Hampton, Virginia Hampton () is an independent city (United States), independent city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the population was 137,438; in 2019, it wa ...
, one of the largest cities of Virginia.


Former cities

Former independent cities, now extinct, that were long extant in Virginia include: *
Bedford Bedford is a historic market Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finland and Sweden Art, entertainment, and media Films *M ...
, which gave up its
city charter A city charter or town charter (generically, municipal charter) is a legal document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as ...
in 2013, and is now an
incorporated town An incorporated town is a town that is a municipal corporation. Canada Incorporated towns are a form of local government in Canada, which is a responsibility of provincial rather than federal government. United States An incorporated town o ...
in
Bedford CountyBedford County is the name of several counties in the United States: * Bedford County, Pennsylvania * Bedford County, Tennessee * Bedford County, Virginia Bedford County may also refer to: * Bedford County, Lower Canada, a historical county that ...
. *
Clifton Forge Clifton Forge is a town in Alleghany County, Virginia, Alleghany County, Virginia, United States which is part of the greater Roanoke Region of Virginia, Roanoke Region. The population was 3,555 at the 2020 United States census, 2020 census. T ...
, which gave up its city charter in 2001, and is now an incorporated town in Alleghany County. *
Manchester Manchester () is the most-populous city and metropolitan borough A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguis ...

Manchester
, which was consolidated by mutual agreement with the
City of Richmond The City of Richmond was a Local government in Australia, local government area about east of Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria (Australia), Victoria, Australia. The city covered an area of , and existed from 1855 until 1994. History ...
in 1910. *
South Boston South Boston is a densely populated neighborhood of Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in Massachusetts, most populous city of the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonweal ...
, which gave up its city charter in 1994, and is now an
incorporated town An incorporated town is a town that is a municipal corporation. Canada Incorporated towns are a form of local government in Canada, which is a responsibility of provincial rather than federal government. United States An incorporated town o ...
in Halifax County. *
South Norfolk South Norfolk is a Non-metropolitan district, local government district in Norfolk, England. Its council is based in Long Stratton. The population of the Local Authority District was 124,012 as taken at the United Kingdom census, 2011, 2011 ...
, which merged with
Norfolk CountyNorfolk County may refer to: *Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States *Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada *Norfolk County, Virginia, (defunct) *Norfolk, a county in England *Norfolk, Virginia, an independent city and county-equivalent in Virginia, ...
in 1963 to form the City of Chesapeake. Two other independent cities existed only for a short time: *
Nansemond The Nansemond are the indigenous people of the Nansemond River, a 20-mile long tributary of the James River in Virginia. Nansemond people lived in settlements on both sides of the Nansemond River where they fished (with the name "Nansemond" meanin ...
, created from the former
Nansemond County Nansemond is an extinct jurisdiction that was located south of the James River in Virginia Colony , legislature = House of Burgesses The House of Burgesses was the elected representative element of the Virginia General Assembly The ...
in 1972, was merged in 1974 with the then-City of Suffolk and three unincorporated towns within the county's former boundaries, to form today's City of Suffolk. *
Warwick Warwick ( ) is a market town and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use ...
, which was formed from the former Warwick County in 1952, was in 1958 consolidated by mutual agreement with the newly expanded
City of Newport News Newport News is an Independent city (United States), independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the population was 186,247. Newport News is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan are ...
.


Other states

* The
City of Baltimore Baltimore ( , locally: ) is the List of municipalities in Maryland, most populous city in the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as List of United States cities by population, the 30th most populous city in the United States, with an estimated po ...

City of Baltimore
has been separate from
Baltimore County, Maryland Baltimore County is the third-most populous county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geograp ...
since the adoption of the
Maryland Constitution of 1851 The Maryland Constitution of 1851 was the second constitution of the U.S. state of Maryland following the American Revolution, revolution, replacing the Maryland Constitution of 1776, Constitution of 1776. The primary reason for the new constitutio ...
. *
Carson City, Nevada Carson City, officially the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City, is an independent city An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity (such as a pro ...
consolidated with Ormsby County in 1969, and the county was simultaneously dissolved. Debates about consolidating Carson City and Ormsby County began in the 1940s, and it required Nevada voters to approve a state constitutional amendment in 1968 to allow the
Nevada Legislature The Nevada Legislature is a bicameral Bicameralism is the practice of having a legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathe ...
to perform such a consolidation. * The
City of St. Louis
City of St. Louis
was separated from
St. Louis County, Missouri St. Louis County is located in the eastern-central portion of Missouri Missouri is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...
in 1876 after voters approved secession from the county.


Other entities similar to independent cities

An independent city is not the same as: * A
consolidated city-county In United States local government, a consolidated city-county is formed when one or more cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in whi ...
(such as
San Francisco San Francisco (; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (dis ...

San Francisco
,
Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is ...

Philadelphia
, or
Denver Denver () is a consolidated city and county, the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more forma ...

Denver
), in which the city and county (or, as in Louisiana, a parish; or as in Alaska, a borough) governments have been merged (in some cases, the city takes up all the land within the county's boundaries, while in other cases, several other independent incorporated communities exist). A consolidated city-county differs from an independent city in that the city and county both nominally exist, although they have a consolidated government, whereas in an independent city, the county does not even nominally exist. * A county such as
Arlington County Arlington County is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interact ...
, Virginia that is completely urbanized but only contains
unincorporated communities An unincorporated area is a region not governed by a local municipal corporation. Similarly, an unincorporated community is a Human settlement, settlement not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but is administered as part of larg ...
, no incorporated cities or municipalities. * A "Federated" City-County multi-tiered type of government such as applies between Miami and
Miami-Dade County, Florida Miami-Dade County is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), William ...
. * The
City of New York New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

City of New York
, which is a ''
sui generis ''Sui generis'' ( , ) is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the ...
'' jurisdiction: the city is made up of five
boroughs A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for ...
, each of which is territorially coterminous with a county of New York State. * Washington, D.C., which has a special status as the U.S. capital. It is not part of any state; instead the
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...

District of Columbia
is under the jurisdiction of the
Congress of the United States The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted wi ...
in accordance with Article 1, Section 8 of the
U.S. Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first t ...
. The District was originally divided into three independent cities and two counties.
Alexandria County Arlington County is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interact ...
(which now forms
Arlington County Arlington County is a county A county is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interact ...
) and the independent city of
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
were returned to Virginia in 1846. The three remaining entities (the City of Washington,
GeorgetownGeorgetown or George Town may refer to: Places Africa *George, Western Cape, South Africa, formerly known as Georgetown *Janjanbureh, Gambia, formerly known as Georgetown *Georgetown, Ascension Island, main settlement of the British territory of A ...
, and
Washington County Washington County is the name of 30 counties and one parish in the United States of America, all named after George Washington, revolutionary war general and first President of the United States. It is the most common county name in the United Stat ...
) were merged into a consolidated government by an act of Congress in 1871. Congress has established a
home rule Home rule is government of a colony, dependent country, or region by its own citizens. It is thus the power of a part (administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative ...
government for the city, although city laws can be overridden by Congress. In practice, the city operates much like other independent cities in the United States. * Cities and towns in New England traditionally have very strong governments, while counties have correspondingly less importance. Today, most counties in southern
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
(
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the United States. As of the 2010 United States census, 2010 Census, it has the highest per-capita income, second-highest level of List of U.S. states and territories by H ...
,
Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as ...
, and
Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * ...

Massachusetts
) have almost no governmental institutions or roles associated with them (aside from serving as a basis for court districts, along with demarcating
National Weather Service The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to m ...
warnings and
media market A media market, broadcast market, media region, designated market area (DMA), television market area, or simply market is a region where the population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a cit ...
s). Counties in southern New England still have a nominal existence, and so no city or town in those three states is truly separate from a county, although the town and the county of
Nantucket Nantucket is an island about by ferry south from Cape Cod Cape Cod is a extending into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of mainland , in the northeastern United States. Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches ...

Nantucket
,
Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * ...

Massachusetts
(on the island of that name), are coterminous, and the
City of Boston Boston (, ), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in Massachusetts, most populous city of the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States and 21st List of Unit ...

City of Boston
used to provide both the complete governance and the complete revenue of its county, Suffolk County, although Suffolk County also includes three much smaller cities. * Cities and towns in the
Unorganized Borough The Unorganized Borough is composed of the portions of the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental Unit ...
of
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
. Alaska is not divided into counties, but has near-equivalents called
boroughs A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for ...
. However, unlike county-equivalents in the other 49 states, the boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state. The area not territory of any borough is referred to as the Unorganized Borough, although it does not have its own local government. The Census Bureau divides the Unorganized Borough into several census areas which it treats as county equivalents for statistical purposes. * A city or village in Ohio may be independent of any
township A township is a kind of human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings g ...
because it is more or less coextensive with a
paper township The term paper township refers to a civil township under Law of Ohio, Ohio law that nominally exists for certain purposes but does not act as a functioning unit of civil government. Such townships usually exist on paper as a legal fiction due to ...
. The Census Bureau classifies these municipalities as ''independent places''.


See also

*
Urban secession Urban secession is a city's secession Secession is the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity, especially a political entity A polity is an identifiable political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with ...


References

{{USCensus Geography Local government in the United States