Ellicott City, Maryland
Tucked away in the Patapsco Valley, Ellicott City, Maryland is practically built into the granite formations that make up the region. The town offers a huge assortment of funky shops, antiques, and restaurants to easily fill a day. Ellicott City was founded in 1772 by three Quaker brothers (John, Andrew, and Joseph Ellicott) who built a flour mill on the Patapsco River. The mill was the start of an industrial boom for the town, then known as Ellicott Mills, making it a major manufacturing center on the east coast. In fact, in 1830 the town became the western most terminus for the nascent Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Signs of Ellicott City's history can be seen all over town. Milling continues to this day at the Wilkins-Rogers Flour Company, the only mill still operating in the state of Maryland. Also the B&O railroad station remains, currently as a museum located at the end of town. Today, Ellicott City is a popular tourist destination not just for its historic charm but also for its excellent dining and wide variety of shopping. The majority of the activity in Ellicott City is located along Main Street. There are additional shops just off Main on Old Columbia Pike in an area called Tonge Row.
Almost all of the shops are unique with no national chains. Many stores sell antiques, but you'll also find many stores selling home furnishings along with gift shops and clothing stores. Despite its outward appearance as a quaint village, you'll also find some businesses more common in a hip urban community, for example tattoo parlors and body piercing. Ellicott City is approximately 15 miles from Baltimore, Maryland and 40 miles from Washington, DC. In the area, Frederick Road, Maryland State Route 144, becomes Main Street as it passes through Ellicott City. If you set your GPS for the Howard County Welcome Center on Main Street this will put you close to some public parking lots. Also, the Welcome Center has public bathrooms if you are traveling a long distance. Additionally, the folks working there can get you started with additional information on your visit to Ellicott City.
We start our tour of Ellicott City, Maryland on the western edge of the historic district. From here we'll continue west along Main Street. We started in a public parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Ellicott Mills Drive and we're already exposed to historic sites, including The Wall Building, which is home to several professional services.
Next to the parking lot, there are several other historic buildings in a park-like setting that you can check out. This is the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin built around 1780. It was rebuilt on this current site. Here, visitors can learn about the settlement and development of the region from authentically costumed historians and artisans.
We head out to Main Street and begin our tour east. Across the street from the parking lot where we were is this church up on a large hill. This is St. Luke's A.M.E. Church, founded in 1889.
This wine boutique was originally built in 1939 as a fire station and also a transit terminal before being converted to commercial use in 1997.
The historic Howard County Courthouse is located on the right and was built primarily of granite between 1840 and 1843. Today, Ellicott City still serves as the Howard County Seat, but the County Courthouse is in a more modern facility just outside downtown.
We continue heading east along Main Street. The white building is called The Judges's Bench. It was once a grocery store where the judges would come from across the street to get out of the heat and cool off.
More businesses along Main Street. Today Frederick Road becomes Main Street as it heads into Ellicott City but it was once part of the National Road, the first great road that linked the country from east to west, starting in Baltimore, Maryland.
A home furnishings store on the left and a Mexican restaurant on the right, this building started out in the 1930s as Miller Chevrolet car dealership. Eventually, the business moved out to nearby Route 40, the highway that bypasses Main Street, but you can see the traces it left behind.
As we continue heading east into town, we encounter more shops and restaurants, including this brewpub and used bookstore both located in some beautiful old historic architecture.
Across the street are more businesses, including a yoga studio and a French restaurant. As we get closer to the heart of town, I should note that Ellicott City was first founded by three brothers who started a flour mill on the banks of the Patapsco River. From there an industrial boom was born, and the town took off, giving life to many of the historic buildings we'll see on our way to the other side of town where the river is.
Next stop is the Howard County Welcome Center, which as the name suggests serves the entire county. Here you can get more information, rest up, and even use the bathrooms. Around the corner is the Howard County Police Department Museum.
Behind the Welcome Center and the Museum you can also access another large public parking lot. From here there is access to several stores, restaurants and businesses, such as the shops in this picture.
You can also walk over to this cafe from the parking lot as well. These buildings are known as Tonge Row and they date back to the early 1800s when they housed mill workers in the area. We're looking at the backside of the buildings. Later when we're on Old Columbia Pike, we'll see the front side of Tonge Row.
We go back out to Main Street and head east again. On the left is The Firehouse Museum. Notice how it is built into the side of the hill? Church Road passes up the left side of the Museum. The Firehouse Museum was orginally built in 1889 as a Firehouse, or course, but was converted to a meeting hall in 1923. Today, it is a museum that houses a wide array of exhibits.
Yates Market & Hardware had previously occupied the buildings on the right. The hardware store occupied the blue building, which was built around the 1850s and the market occupied the brick building on the far right, which was built around 1922. The stores were run for serveral gernerations until recently and now they are occupied by A Journey From Junk antiques store.
Here is another view of the Yates Market & Hardware buildings. You can see from this angle how they have been repurposed recently into an antiques store.
As we head east a little bit and look back, we see this cute dog coming out of a salon to greet passersby.
We make it to the intersection of Main Street and Old Columbia Pike. The mural on the wall points to more businesses along Old Columbia Pike. On the right you can see the backside of The Firehouse Museum. In the upper right-hand corner is the Howard County Historical Society Museum. It is located in the former First Presbyterian Church which was built in 1837 and renovated in 1894 in the Gothic-style and features a 100 foot bell tower.
We'll take a trip up Old Columbia Pike to see some of the businesses and historic buildings along this route. Old Columbia Pike got its name from the Colubmbia Pike a highway originally built as a turnpike that headed towards the District of Columbia.
This row of structures built between 1830 and 1870 is known as Taylor's Row. Used mostly as barns and sheds their relative obscurity left them mostly untouched and therefore escaped demolition. Today, they very much resemble their original appearance and have been well-maintained.
Across the street is Tonge Row. This is the front side of the buildings we saw earlier where the backsides were along the public parking lot.
We head back to Main Street. Ahead we see the Howard House Apartments. Originally, the building was the Howard House Hotel, built around 1840. People could walk through the lobby to the back to access Church Road, which runs behind the Hotel. The owner believed that the people passing through would want to stop and eat at the restaurant located inside.
As we head east, we find more shops located in the historic buildings along Main Street.
Across the street on the right side of the picture, on the corner of Main Street and Old Columbia Pike, you can see the former location of Taylor's Antique Mall. The building was built around 1924. Sadly, at the time of this photo, the building was vacant and available for lease so hopefully new tennants will be found to replace the popular business.
Here's a view looking westbound on Main Street. On the right, you can see The Firehouse Museum.
We pull back a little more. This time we can see the Howard House Hotel on the right side of the picture.
The stone building with the red shutters is known as the Walker-Chandler House and was originally built around 1790 as a private residence. This granite block structure is built into solid rock and on a slope such that the entire first floor forms the foundation. The building served a variety of purposes until becoming Ellicott's Country Store in 1962. Also notice the large rock outcropping just next to the building.
Across the street, the newer set of brick buildings is known as Ellicott Square, which contains several shops and businesses.
The three and a half story, gable-roofed, stone granite building on the right, is one of the few detached structures on Main Street. Originally built as a harness shop around 1848, it was purchased by the Indpendent Order of Odd Fellows in 1863 and has been in continuous use by them ever since.
As we continue east on Main Street, the road bends slightly. It's also interesting to note the businesses along here, including psychics. Also note the brightly colored buildings and the wrought iron work on the balconies above.
Across the street are more historic buildings converted into shops and businesses. The tall one in the middle was previously a bank.
Shoppers stroll along busy Main Street. Caplan's Department Store opened in 1895 and was a mainstay for more than 80 years before closing. The sign remains but today the building is occupied by the boutique store, Sweet Elizabeth Jane.
Here's another view of that row of shops including the old Caplan's Department Store.
And this is an interior view of Caplan's Department Store, which is now Sweet Elizabeth Jane.
We head back outside. Across the street, The Patapsco National Bank building was built around 1905 in the neo-colonial style with doric columns and large squared corner stones "for a sense of banking stability." The bank closed in the eighties and is today occupied by a florist.
The building in the middle with the flag is known as the Rosenstock Building. It replaces the popular early 20th century Rosenstock's Department Store. The original three buildings joined by a single front were destroyed by a 1999 fire. The new building was designed using details from the original building.
More shops and restaurants along Main Street. Many of these had to be restored after Hurricane Agnes came through in 1972. It's also interesting to see the bright colors used on many of these buildings, including the bright purple on the structure on the right.
At the corner of Main Street and Tiber Alley are more shops and businesses in historic buildings. Tiber Alley is named after the Tiber River, which is a small tributary of the Patapsco River that forms the narrow valley followed by Main Street.
Continuing east, we come to Tiber Park. There is a small pedestrian bridge that crosses over the Tiber River, more of a creek really. You can see how it passes underneath some of the buildings.
If we cross over the bridge and head back a little way, we come across a few more businesses tucked away just off Main Street.
We head back out to Main Street and continue heading east. The building on the right was originally a funeral home called Easton and Sons. Although the business dates back to the 1880s the structure itself only dates back to the 1930s. The business closed in the 1950s and is today occupied by a coffee house.
The large five story building was built around 1780 and is known as the Old Stone Tavern House Wayside Inn. It has served many uses, including a hotel, town hall, opera house, and theater. Since 1985, it has been occupied by the Forget-Me-Not-Factory store, whose owners have performed a great deal of restoration.
Across the street, at the corner of Main Street and Maryland Avenue is The Phoenix Emporium. The building dates back to 1858 and has long been used as either a restaurant or saloon.
This is a view of the intersection of Main Street and Maryland Avenue from in front of the B&O Railroad Museum. The building on the right is known as the Old Railroad Hotel and was built around 1847.
And now if we turn around, we can see the B&O Railroad Museum. It bills itself as the oldest railroad station in America. We have almost made it to the eastern most end of town so this would be a good time to note that there are public bathrooms located inside.
We see more businesses along Maryland Avenue as well, including this large antiques store.
If we continue heading east, we pass underneath the railroad tracks. This is a view looking back west in the direction from which we just came. The sign welcomes folks into Ellicott City.
And on the bridge there are markers showing the past flooding when the Patapsco River waters would rise up. Hurrican Agnes came through in 1972. In 1868, the waters rose above the railroad tracks.
As we continue heading east, looking down, we can see the Patapsco River. This is the dividing line between Howard County and Baltimore County, so at this point, we are officially leaving Ellicott City.
But there are still businesses on the other side, including this restaurant, which is located in a structure built in 1833. It gets its name, The Trolley Stop, because a trolley stopped outside the building between 1889 and 1927.
On the other side of the Patapsco River is the town of Oella. You'll find some more shops and many historic houses on this side as well.
One last picture before we go. Main Street becomes Frederick Road as it makes its way east towards Baltimore. But Ellicott City hasn't forgotten its roots. The Wilkins Rogers flour and wheat mill is located just on the outskirts of town and is still operating today.
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