The Ellicott brothers purchased two parcels of riverfront property along both sides of the Patapsco River in 1771. At that time, the land known as the Hollow was still wilderness. Their first mill, a flour mill, was completed in 1774, as was a small village to house the mill workers. A small dam, only five feet high, was built to provide water power for the mills. Getting local farmers to convert from tobacco to wheat was a hard sell, but by the end of the Revolution wheat had surpassed tobacco as a cash crop and the flour industry was thriving. The Ellicotts sold the mills which made Patapsco Flour in 1844. Eventually the mills became DCA (Donut Corporation of America), and then in 1967, Wilkins-Rogers began making Washington Flour here.
The town of Ellicott’s Mills began with a boardinghouse containing apartments for mill workers on the northern bank, and it had limited growth through the end of the 18th century. After a fire in 1809 destroyed most of the log cabin village, stone houses were built, primarily on the south side of the river. Tongue Row, which was built at this time, consists of a series of small stone structures built as homes for the mill workers. The town of Ellicott Mills became Ellicott City in 1867, but it unincorporated in 1935 and reverted to county rule.
Main Street, which runs uphill from the Patapsco, is wedged against a 20-ft. cliff. With the exception of one building, those built along the river were wiped out by various floods. (In 1868, the river rose 5 feet in 10 minutes, killing 50 people. Hurricane Agnes wiped out the bridge across the river in 1972.) The George Ellicott home which sits across the main road from the flour mill was built in 1789 and is the only remaining 18th century structure.
At the upper end of Main Street, the Heritage Orientation Center has a scale model of Ellicott Mills and interesting displays about the town's history. This two-story granite building was the county court house from 1840-1843. Nearby is the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, which was moved here from its original site on Merryman Street.
The Patapsco Female Institute was built on one of the town’s highest hills in 1837. It was well-known school for young women until it closed in 1891. During World War I, it became a hospital, and then in 1930, the Hill Top Theatre. In 1966, a group tried to raise funds for restoration—but they were unsuccessful. The stabilized ruins can be visited on occasion.
Mid-way along Main Street is the Firehouse Museum in the town's first fire station. It was completed in 1889 and has an oversized cupola with bell which was used to call volunteers and the original weather vane.
There are numerous other historic properties, including St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ellicott’s First School, Lilburn, Emory Methodist Episcopal Church, Angelo Cottage, Linwood, Mt. Ida, First Presbyterian Church (now Howard Co Historical Society), Old Manse, Ellicott’s Second School, Howard County Court House, Lawyer’s Row, and Quaker Meeting House.
The first railroad station in the U.S. was built in Ellicott City--the first terminus of the B&O Railroad in 1830. It had no passenger facilities, so riders gained access to the railroad via the second floor of the Patapsco Hotel across Main Street from the station. In 1885 a new Freight House was built; it now houses a 40 ft. HO scale model of the first 13 miles of railroad from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills. Next to it is a restored 1927 caboose. The railroad station museum recently celebrated the 175th anniversary of American railroading June 26-July 6, 2003. On July 4, 1828, the first stone of the B&O was laid by Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence. www.ecbo.org
Ellicott City Hikes
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