Ellicott City was founded in 1772, the town features the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station Museum,built in 1830, a downtown historic district ,which is a very popular destination among antiques shoppers, with restaurants, eclectic boutique shops, coffee shops, a tea room and many historic sites.
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Ellicott City is listed among America’s most affluent communities and is located in Howard County, the third wealthiest county in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The downtown area is often called “Historic Ellicott City” or “Old Ellicott City”, to distinguish it from the unincorporated area that extends north to the Baltimore County line, south to Columbia, and west to West Friendship.
In 1772, three Quaker brothers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, chose the picturesque wilderness, upriver from Elk Ridge Landing (known today as Elkridge, Maryland) to establish a flour mill. John, Andrew, and Joseph Ellicott founded Ellicott’s Mills, which became one of the largest milling and manufacturing towns in the East.
Thomas Isaac Log cabin, Named after a 19th century owner, the cabin was believed to have been built circa 1780 by an early Ellicott’s Mills settler. Located at west end of Ellicott City’s Main Street, tourists can learn about the history of Ellicott’s Mills from authentically costumed historians.The Ellicott brothers helped revolutionize farming in the area by persuading farmers to plant wheat instead of tobacco and also by introducing fertilizer to revitalize depleted soil. Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and wealthy landowner, was an early influential convert from tobacco to wheat.
In 1830, Ellicott’s Mills became the first terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad outside Baltimore. The station, built of huge blocks of locally quarried granite, stands today as a living history museum, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It bears the designation as the “Oldest surviving railroad station in America”. The famous race between Peter Cooper’s iron engine, the Tom Thumb, and a horse-drawn carriage took place at Relay on the return trip from Ellicott’s Mills in August 1830. Even though the horse won the race due to a broken drive belt, steam engines steadily improved, and the railroad became a vital link in the town’s economy.
By 1861, Ellicott’s Mills was a prosperous farming and manufacturing area. The site of the courthouse, which was built from 1840-1843 when the Howard District of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, was so designated in 1839. Howard County, Maryland, became an official independent jurisdiction in 1851. On July 10, 1864 Federal troops under the command of General Lew Wallace retreated down the National Pike from the Battle of Monocacy to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Ellicott’s Mills station. Homes and churches in Ellicott’s Mills were temporarily used as hospitals for the Union wounded. In 1867, a city charter was secured for Ellicott’s Mills, and the name was changed to “Ellicott City.” The only chartered city in the county, Ellicott City lost its charter in 1935 and was designated an historic district by the county in 1973. Ellicott City today serves as the county seat for Howard County.
Historic flood stages marked on the B&O viaduct. Hurricane Agnes flood stage (14Â½ feet) is in the middle of the photograph.In the early summer of 1972, the downtown Main Street area was extensively flooded by Hurricane Agnes; the Ellicott brothers’ house on the mill property was also destroyed. A more severe flood in 1868 wiped most early industry from the valley, but spared the flour mill.
Historic Main Street has also been the site of several devastating fires, most notably in November 1984 and again on November 9, 1999. The former was started by Leidig’s Bakery’s faulty air conditioning unit and destroyed six buildings; the latter, a 6-alarm blaze which destroyed five businesses and caused an estimated $2 million in damage, was accidentally started behind a restaurant by a discarded cigarette.
The Ellicott City area was the home to the fairy tale-themed amusement park known as the Enchanted Forest. The park has been closed to the general public since the early 1990s, and a shopping center (called the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center) was built on its parking lot. Many of the attractions have been moved to Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, where they are being restored. The Enchanted Forest was featured in the 1990 John Waters-directed film Cry-Baby, starring Ricki Lake and Johnny Depp. Clark’s Elioak Farm is a petting zoo/farm that is open to the public during the summer.
Ellicott City has been called one of the most haunted small towns on the east coast. The Howard County Tourism Council runs a Ghost Tour that visits several places with reputations for paranormal activity. Among these are the mansions Lilburn, Hayden House, and Mt. Ida; the B&O railroad bridge that crosses over Main Street in the center of the town; the old Ellicott City Firehouse; and the Patapsco Female Institute. Proud Ellicott City residents use this haunted history to bring their small town into the spotlight.