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Ellicott City, Maryland

Ellicott City, Maryland
Census-designated place
Main Street at Church Lane in Historic Ellicott City
Main Street at Church Lane in Historic Ellicott City
Location of Ellicott City, Maryland
Location of Ellicott City, Maryland
Country  United States
State  Maryland
County Howard
Founded 1772
Incorporated 1867-1935
Historic District 1973-present
Founded by John, Andrew, and Joseph Ellicott
 • Type County council
 • Councilman Jon Weinstein
District 1
 • Total 30.1 sq mi (77.9 km2)
 • Land 30.0 sq mi (77.6 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
Elevation 180 ft (55 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 65,834
 • Estimate (2013)[1] 66,476
 • Density 2,200/sq mi (850/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 21041–21043
Area code(s) 410, 443
FIPS code 24-26000
GNIS feature ID 0584282

Ellicott City is an unincorporated community and census-designated place, along with being the county seat of local government in Howard County, Maryland, United States. It is part of the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area. The population was 65,834 at the U.S. Decennial Census of 2010.[2] It is the county seat of Howard County.[3] Founded in 1772, the town contains the B. & O. Railroad Museum's branch at the Ellicott City Station, built in 1830, and the first terminus of the initial line. The downtown historic district is located in the valley of the upper Western Branch of the Patapsco River. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, Ellicott City surpassed Towson, Maryland (county seat of neighboring Baltimore County) for the first time, as the largest unincorporated county seat in the country.

Ellicott City is listed among America's most affluent communities.[4] Since 2005, Ellicott City has been ranked four times among the top "20 Best Places to Live in the United States" by Money and[5][6][7][8]

The downtown area in the Patapsco Valley is often called "Historic Ellicott City" or "Old Ellicott City", to distinguish it from the surrounding suburban unincorporated area that extends north to the Baltimore County line, south to the other large unincorporated town in Howard County, Columbia, and west to West Friendship.


  • History 1
    • Before incorporation 1.1
    • After incorporation 1.2
  • Geography 2
    • Geology 2.1
    • Climate 2.2
  • Demographics 3
  • Economy 4
    • Personal income 4.1
    • Tourism 4.2
  • Government 5
  • Education 6
  • Notable people 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Before incorporation

In 1766 James Hood used the "Maryland Mill Act of 1669" to condemn 20 acres (8.1 ha) for a mill site adjacent to his river-side 157 acres (64 ha) property. His grist mill was built on the banks of the Patapsco River where the Frederick road (later known as the old National Road, then United States Route 40/Maryland Route 144) crossed (later known as Ellicott's Upper Mills).[9] His son Benjamin, rebuilt the corn grinding mill after one of the frequent Patapsco floods in 1768. Benjamin Hood then sold the mill to Joseph Ellicott in 1774 for 1,700 pounds. In later years the B&O railroad would run through the property, with track laid over the graves of the Hood family.[10]

On 24 April 1771, four Quaker brothers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia, chose the picturesque wilderness, several miles upriver from Elk Ridge Landing (today's Elkridge, Maryland), the upper-most part of the river then navigable by tobacco-loading sailing merchant ships in the 18th Century, to establish a flour mill, purchasing 50 acres (20 ha) of Baltimore County land from Emanuel Teal and 35 acres (14 ha) from William Williams. In 1775 they expanded their holdings with 30.5 acres (12.3 ha) from Bartholomew Balderson and Hood's Mill.[11] John, Andrew, and Joseph Ellicott founded "Ellicott's Mills", which became one of the largest milling and manufacturing towns in the East. Nathaniel sold his partnership in 1777, Joseph sold all but his Hood's Mill ownership the next year.[12] The town retained the name "Ellicott's Mills" when the U.S. Postal stop opened on October 7, 1797.[13]

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.

The Ellicott brothers constructed sawmills, smithies, stables, an oil mill, a grain distillery, and grain mills.[14] They helped revolutionize farming in the area by persuading farmers to plant wheat instead of tobacco and also by introducing Plaster of Paris fertilizer to revitalize depleted soil. The Ellicotts produced the product until a fire on 11 January 1809.[15] Charles Carroll of Carrollton, (1737-1832), the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, a rare Roman Catholic and a wealthy landowner with the largest fortune then in colonial America, was an early influential convert from tobacco to wheat. By 1830, the founders families could no longer support operations as "Ellicott and Company" or "Johnathan Ellicott and Sons". By 1840, the Ellicott family sold off their interests in the two flour mills, the granite quarry, the saw mill and plaster mill.[16]

The town faced major devastating floods in 1817, 1837, and 1868.[17]

In 1830, Ellicott's Mills became the first terminus of the Independence Day" with the beginning of construction. The Ellicott City Station, built on an embankment across the corner of the town and along the Patapsco River and intersecting Tiber Creek stream, with its "Oliver Viaduct", named for a B. & O. board member Robert Oliver crossing over the National Road of large blocks of locally quarried gray granite, stands today as a living history museum, and has been designated a "National Historic Landmark" by the U.S. Department of the Interior, administered by the National Park Service.[18] It bears the designation as the "Oldest surviving railroad station in America". The famous race between New York industrialist and Baltimore foundry-owner Peter Cooper's (1791-1883), iron steam engine, the "Tom Thumb", and a horse-drawn rail carriage took place between Relay Junction on the return trip from Ellicott's Mills towards Baltimore in August 1830. Even though the horse won the race due to a sudden broken drive belt on the "Tom Thumb", it heralded the time when steam engines steadily improved, and the soon-to-be steam-operated railroad became a vital link in the town's economy and later expanding to the city of Baltimore's economic supremacy along with the state in the nation.

The site of the Howard County Courthouse, which was built from 1840–1843 when the former western Howard District of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, was so designated for the new temporary district in 1839, and continued and was expanded later when Howard County became an official independent jurisdiction in 1851, as one of the 23 counties (and Baltimore as an independent city) in the State of Maryland. By 1861, Ellicott's Mills was a prosperous farming and manufacturing area.

At the start of the Civil War in April–May 1861, Union Army troops seized the "Winans Steam Gun" which had been en route to Harpers Ferry, Virginia at Ellicott Mills. The experimental gun had been developed by local Southern-sympathizer railroad builder and industrialist Ross Winans.[19] In the fall of 1862, the 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry was assigned to guard Ellicotts Mills, setting up the 1200 man Camp Johnson on the lawn of the nearby Patapsco Female Institute.[20] On July 10, 1864, in the third Confederate invasion of the North, led by General Jubal Early, forced the retreat of the Federal troops under the command of General Lew Wallace down the National Pike from the Battle of the Monocacy, to the B.& O.'s Ellicott's Mills station and to Baltimore. The one day delay by Wallace's small force at Monocacy Junction enabled Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to rush troops in time to defend the US capitol. Homes and churches in Ellicott's Mills were temporarily used as hospitals for the Union wounded.

In 1866, cholera broke out.

The Granite Mills cotton factory owned by Benjamin Detford burned down.[21]

After incorporation

In 1867, a city charter was secured for Ellicott's Mills forming a local government with a Mayor and council, and the name was changed to "Ellicott City". The only chartered city in the county, Ellicott City lost its charter in 1935 with a proposal from Senator Joeseph Donovan as the tax base from saloon fees lost in prohibition caused citizen protest as taxes were shifted to residents.[22] It was designated a 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 (14.5 feet (4.4 m)) is in the middle of the photograph.

The first Mayor was E.A. Talbot, who lived in a stone house and operated a lumber yard at the base of the river. His business was washed away in the flood of 1866, and again in 1868.[23] He was offered a clear title on his home from his opponent Issacs if he threw his reelection, which he did. Talbot relocated uphill to a brick and granite store designed by Charles Timanus that houses the Ellicott City Brewing Company today.[24]

A severe flood in 1868 drowned 43 people, wiped out the Granite Manufacturing Cotton Mill, Charles A. Gambrils Patapsco Mill, John Lee Carroll's mill buildings, and dozens of homes.[17] One mill was rebuilt by Charles Gambill, which remained in operation until a fire in 1916.[25]

Howard County built its first jailhouse, Ellicott City Jail, also called Emory Jail or Willow Grove, on Emory Avenue in 1878. The stone jail intended for 12 inmates operated until The Howard County Detention Center opened in 1983.[26]

In 1879, political gangs controlled the polling locations shooting and wounding Ellicott City colored voters. The Deputy Sheriff declined to arrest the leaders for fear of his life and further outbreaks of violence.[27]

Ellicott City favored the Temperance movement, enacting a law against "spiritous, fermented or intoxicating liquors" in 1882, taking effect May 1, 1883. This was shortly changed to limit sales of liquor to licensed shops that did not sell other goods providing the primary source of the town's tax income.[28][29]

Trolley service was proposed for Ellicott City in 1892, approved on 20 April 1895, and implemented in 1899.[30] The service ran a double-ended streetcar for most of its service life until 1955 when the Baltimore Service commission recommended a bus replacement which ran two years.[31] The Catonsville & Ellicott City Electric Railway Company rail line was later converted to a hiking trail.[32][33]

In February 1895, shop owner Daniel F. Shea was murdered by Jacob Henson. Henson was tried and sentenced to death. Fearing that Governor Brown might release Henson due to insanity, a group of residents broke into the jail and lynched Henson on Merricks Lane with a sign saying "Brown cannot rule our cort". Governor Brown condemned the citizens and ordered all prisoners sentenced to death be sent to the Maryland Penitentiary from then on.[34]

After a difficult start in 1896, granite mining was started.[32]

In 1907 Taylor Manor started as the Patapsco Manor Sanitarium built on property along New Cut road. In 1939 the facility was purchased by Issac Taylor and run as the Pinel Clinic. Taylor operated an optometrist business and Taylor's Furniture on Main Street. In 1948 the facility expanded to 48 beds, and in 1968 it expanded to 151 beds.[35] The Modern architecture circular rotunda stands out at the center of campus. Taylor Manor covered more than 70 acres (28 ha).[36][37] In 2000, the facility became a branch of Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital

In 1924, the Display Machine Doughnut Corporation moved to Ellicott City from New York, occupying the site of the 1916 Patapsco Flouring Mill built on the ruins of the former Elicott and Gambrill's mills. The company made doughnut mix and doughnut manufacturing machines as the Doughnut Corporation of America. On 27 April 1941 a fire gutted the eight story factory, but it rebuilt providing doughnut mixes to WWII troops.[38][39] In January 1942, an emergency room was set up in the Post Office for civilian defense for the ongoing war effort.[40]

In 1943, the Metropolitan District was formed to bring water and sewer to Ellicott City, sponsored by newspaperman P.G. Stromberg, I.H. Taylor, Charles E. Miller, Marray G. Peddicord, John A. Lane, and W. Emil Thomspon.[41] In 1955, County Commissioner Norman E. Moxley created the city's first major subdivision, Normandy Woods. The first major shopping center, Normandy Shopping Center was constructed.[42] Alda Hopkins Clark purchased the Ellicott City Presbyterian Church to donate it to the Howard County Historical Society.[43]

In 1958, The Goddess, a film loosely based on Marilyn Monroe's life, was shot on location in the city.[44]

Prior to 1962, the only polling location for Howard County voters was in Ellicott City. In May 1962, voters were offered a second location to vote, also in Ellicott City at the National Armory on Montgomery Road.[45]

The county's only major aircraft incident occurred in the city near Clarksville in 1962. A Vickers Viscount disabled by a bird strike crashed on the Homewood farm killing all aboard.[46]

The same year, the state health department ordered the city to stop dumping its raw sewage into the Patuxent River and develop a modern septic system.[47]

In 1964, the Corinthian Conservation Company was proposed to operate a Title I private-nonprofit partnership to implement a slum eradication program in Ellicott City, demolishing residences, and replacing them with 75% federal funded apartment complexes.[48][49]

On 21 June 1972, the Patapsco River valley flooded 14.5 feet (4.4 m) during Hurricane Agnes, taking out a concrete bridge, destroying the Jonathan Ellicott home, the 1910 Victor Blode water filtration plant and flooding Main Street to the Odd Fellows hall.[50]

In 1977, the county chose a site outside of the city for a new landfill, leading to the closure of the local New Cut Road landfill which served the county from 1944 until May 1980 for trash and hazardous materials.[51][52] The New Cut landfill became the Worthington Dog Park.[53] In 2011, a portion of the former 83 acres (34 ha) landfill site was developed with a $462,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to build onsite solar arrays to power Worthington Elementary.[54]

Historic Main Street has also been the site of several devastating fires, most notably in November 1984, three in 1992 and again on November 9, 1999. The 1984 fire was started by Leidig's Bakery's faulty air conditioning unit and destroyed six buildings; the 1992 fires were by arson, and the 1999 six-alarm blaze which destroyed five businesses and caused an estimated $2 million in damage, was accidentally started behind a restaurant by a discarded cigarette.[55][56][57]

The fairy tale-themed amusement park, the Enchanted Forest, was located in the city. The park closed to the general public since the early 1990s. 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.[58]

At midnight on August 21, 2012, a CSX coal train derailed on the Old Main Line Subdivision.[59] Two 19-year-old girls who were sitting on the railroad bridge over Main Street were killed when coal was dumped on them.[60]

The same year the Forest Diner closed, ending a 66-year business as a traditional polished metal roadside diner, making way for 38 apartments.[61]

In 2014, the Hiene House and Ellicott City Jail were placed on the Preserve Howard top ten most endangered list due to walkway and parking lot construction plans.[62]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 30.1 square miles (77.9 km2), of which 30.0 square miles (77.6 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.41%, is water.[65]

Ellicott City is claimed to be built on seven hills. These hills lie southeast of the Historic District, which is on the banks of the Patapsco River. The Tiber River is a small tributary of the Patapsco that forms the narrow valley followed by Main Street. Several deep stream valleys converge at this location, which increases the risk of flooding, but at the same time creates the town's heights.

Greater Ellicott City is roughly bordered by the Patapsco River to the north and east, Bonnie Branch and Maryland Route 108 to the south, and Manor Lane and Marriottsville Road to the west. The rest of the city includes the neighborhoods of Oella, Ilchester, Dorsey's Search, Centennial, Elioak, Font Hill, Dunloggin, Waverly, Mount Hebron, Saint Johns Lane, Bethany Lane, Normandy, Linwood, Long Gate, Taylor Village, Worthington, Brampton Hills, Montgomery Meadows, and Jonestown.[66]


Historic Ellicott City sits on Ordovician granite whose outcrops can be seen lining Main Street.


Summers are hot and humid, with frequent thunderstorms. Spring and fall bring pleasant temperatures. Winter is often considered chilly by U.S. standards, with lighter rain showers of longer duration. Sporadic snowfall can occur in winter, but is usually relatively light. Rainfall is spread evenly throughout the year, with 3–5 inches (76–127 mm) falling each month.

Climate data for Ellicott City, MD
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 42
Average low °F (°C) 23
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.74
Source: Intellicast[67]


Population by Race in Ellicott City Maryland (2010)
Race Population % of Total
Total 65,834 100
Caucasian 42,452 64
Asian 15,056 22
African American 5,585 8
Hispanic 2,323 3
Two or More Races 1,850 2
Other 733 1
Three or more races 139 < 1%
American Indian 134 < 1%

As of the census of 2010,[2] there were 65,834 people, 23,734 households, and 18,150 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 2,188.8 people per square mile (845.1/km²). There were 24,672 housing units at an average density of 822.4 per square mile (317.9/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 64.5% White, 22.9% Asian, 8.5% African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 1.1% some other race, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.5% of the population.

There were 23,734 households, out of which 39.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.2% were headed by married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.5% were non-families. 19.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.76, and the average family size was 3.20.

In the CDP the population was distributed by age with 26.5% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 30.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.7 years. For every 100 females there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.5 males.[2]


Personal income

According to a 2007 estimate,[75] the median income for a household in the CDP was $103,464, and the median income for a family was $120,064. Males had a median income of $63,938 versus $41,721 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $29,287. About 2.2% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.3% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.


Main Street and Maryland Avenue in Historic Ellicott City.

Ellicott City has been called one of the most haunted small towns on the east coast.[76] The Howard County Tourism Council runs a Ghost Tour that visits several places with reputations for paranormal activity.[77] 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.

In 2009, Ellicott City appeared on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns," a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. In determining his ranking, Greenberg cited the appeal of Main Street, among several other factors.[78]

Tourist attraction include:


Ellicott City is at present part of Maryland's 7th congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Elijah Cummings.


Ellicott City proper is served by Mount Hebron High School, Centennial High School, Wilde Lake High School, and Howard High School in the Howard County Public School System; Marriotts Ridge High School serves most of the rest of the CDP area.[79] Two of the system's special schools, along with the central offices, also have Ellicott City addresses, though in fact they are on the northern edge of Columbia.[79]

Middle schools serving the CDP are Burleigh Manor, Dunloggin, Bonnie Branch, Mount View, Ellicott Mills and Patapsco.[80] The elementary schools include Veterans, Ilchester, Northfield, Centennial Lane, Manor Woods, St. Johns Lane, Worthington, and Hollifield Station.[81]

St. John's Parish Day School is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of the town center, and Glenelg Country School is located at the western edge of the CDP.

Notable people


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External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Ellicott City travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Geographic data related to Ellicott City, Maryland at OpenStreetMap
  • Historic Ellicott City, Inc.
  •, community page
  • Ellicott City Historic District Partnership — Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, Inc.
  • Photographs of historic Ellicott City — by John L. Beck
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