The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, and the Firehouse Museum are closed for the season and will reopen on Saturday April 26, 2018. The Original Courthouse of the Howard District is open 7 days a week from 11am-4pm as a self-guided tour. The Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum is open year round: Wednesdays and Thursdays 10am-2pm; Fridays and Saturdays 10am-7pm; Sundays noon-5pm. Free admission to all sites. 


Historic Sites

The Living History and Heritage Program aims to benefit a diverse audience through utilizing our historic resources in various ways: by staying current with technology and heritage tourism trends; by providing historically accurate information to our visitors; and maintaining a sense of place through the built environment and the intangible heritage associated with the region.

Our trained staff have professional backgrounds in historic preservation, archaeology, history and education. We offer a variety of academic and cultural heritage programs, special events, tours of our historic sites and many opportunities for people of all ages throughout the county and beyond.

PFI anniversary badminton

Upcoming Events

Holiday Model Train Gardens

All Ages/Nov 24-Jan 28

 This holiday season, the model trains return to the Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum. The Lego trains plus N gauge and O gauge models will be on display from November 24 through January 28. Admission will be free so don’t miss your chance to visit this local winter tradition for all ages! Information: 410-313-1945

Ages 21+/First Thursdays (dates below)/$35

Join local artist Wiley Purkey as you paint your own rendition of a historic Ellicott City landmark. First Thursday of the month, starting with January and the painting subject changes with each month. All materials are provided. Light refreshments will be served and wine will be available for purchase. 

Feb 1; Mar 1; Apr 5     B&O Ellicott City Station Museum   6:30-10pm

NEW! Victorian for a Day

7-11 yrs/dates below/$12

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be alive in the 1800? Explore what kids did for fun and the activities and games that were a part of their daily lives in the Victorian Era. Dress up and time travel for a few hours as you play games, read from a diary of a student who attended the Patapsco Female Institute in the 1850s and enjoy an authentic tea party. Dance like a Victorian and try some crafts you'll get to take home with you!

Feb 19; Feb 25; Mar 4; Mar 18 at Waverly Mansion  1-4 pm







School Programs

Field Trips with the Howard County Heritage Program

The Living History and Heritage Program provides archaeology, history and historic preservation-themed field trips at either the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park (PFIHP), or the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin and Firehouse Museum. Also included are a Main Street walking tour and a visit to the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Museum.

Third Grade Field Trips

Field trips are optimized for the third grade local history unit in the Howard County Public School System, but all of our programs are adaptable for your grade and age-appropriateness.

Trip A: PFI visit with three activity stations at the ruins; Walking tour of Main Street; B&O Museum visit. With this option, the three activities at PFI include a tour of the site, an archaeology activity, and a primary source activity using old letters and photos from the school era of the Institute. When the group arrives to PFI they are split into three subgroups and they rotate for 20 minutes each between the stations. (The PFI option can only be done Tues-Thurs)


Trip B: Firehouse Museum and Log Cabin site visits with historical games and activities; Walking tour of Main street; B&O Museum visit. (Can be done Mon-Fri)


Please contact for pricing.

Customizable and shorter field trip options are available for private schools and smaller groups, please call for availability, pricing and details.


Classroom Visits

New in 2017, the Living History and Heritage Program is bringing our field trips to your classroom! 

Choose from two 1-hour hands-on history activities, led by one of our educators: 

Archaeology Lab: How has daily life changed over time for Marylanders? We can learn a lot from what was left in the ground! Become a junior archaeologist and learn how artifacts are analyzed after they've been excavated. 

Fun from the Past: What did people do for fun before electricity and internet? Try your hand at two popular Early American games, and learn a party dance from the 1800s. See how your pastimes have changed (or stayed the same) over three centuries. 

In-class programs are offered Monday-Friday, for a special introductory rate of $1 per participant. 

Please call or e-mail for more information or to schedule a field trip for your class or homeschool group. E-mail is suggested for fastest reservation.

Caitlin Chamberlain

Site Tours


B&O Ellicott City Station Museum: Wednesdays- Thursdays: 10am-2pm; Fridays-Saturdays: 10am-7pm; Sundays: noon-5pm; Mondays and Tuesdays: Closed

Firehouse Museum: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4pm through 12/17/17.
Ellicott City Colored School, Restored: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4 pm through 12/17/17.
Thomas Isaac Log Cabin: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4pm through 12/17/17.
Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park: Closed for the Season. Reopens for tours on 04/28/18.

Original Courthouse of the Howard District: Open daily, year-round from 11am-4pm as a self-guided tour.

For more information about tours of our Main Street Ellicott City sites, contact the Living History and Heritage Program line at 410-313-0421

Camps and Homeschool Programs

Homeschool Classes and Programs

We can create a customized program to mirror your curriculum. Please contact Karen Dickens, Heritage Program Educator, for more information: 410-313-0423 or



Wedding and Birthday Party Rentals


The Patapsco Female Institute offers a truly unique atmosphere for couples looking to put a personal touch on their wedding celebration. The elegance of Greek Revival Architecture meets the breezy lightness of an outdoor event in the stabilized ruins to provide endless creative versatility.  


We have several historic locations available for private event rental. And, new in 2017, we offer living history birthday party packages with educator-led activities for children ages 6+. 

For more information about rental packages and regulations or to schedule a consultation appointment please contact Allison Meyd at 410-313-0424 or

Photos by K. Rainier Photography


The Patapsco Female Institute

The Patapsco Female Institute 

3655 Church Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

Perched at Ellicott City’s highest point, the Patapsco Female Institute offered a revolutionary curriculum to young women from 1837-1891. The school earned a national reputation for its inclusion of botany, chemistry, and mathematics in a time where it was believed that women could not learn such subjects. Since the school’s closure at the end of the 19th century, the site lived other lives as a summer resort hotel, a private residence, The Hilltop Theatre, Maryland's first summer stock theater, and a nursing home known as the Brennan Convalescent Home. The ruins of this grand example of Greek-revival architecture were stabilized and restored in 1995. Explore the Victorian Era in Howard county by joining us for a tour, booking a wedding or special event, or attending an educational program at this breezy hilltop historic park.

 The Patapsco Female Institute is open for history tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm - 4pm, from late April through October. Tours are weather permitting  For the most updated information please call the program status line at 410-313-0421.

Select year-round availability options exist for school groups and private tours.

Additional Information 

The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin

The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin

8394 Main St.
Ellicott City, MD 21043

Constructed around 1780 on nearby Merryman Street, the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin commemorates the early stages of European development in the Patapsco River Valley. The site’s namesake, Thomas Isaac, purchased the structure in 1858 to expand his land holdings. The site served as important resource for city’s African American community in the 1870s, preceding the still-active St. Luke A.M.E. church as a meeting place. The cabin’s small size and spare interior reflect the style of most homes from the end of the 18th century, lending visitors a sense of Howard County’s colonial past. In the 1980s the cabin was dismantled and rebuilt where it currently stands today on the corner of Main Street and Ellicott Mills Drive.

Tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm - 4pm May through December. School groups and private tours available year-round, weather permitting.

The Firehouse Museum

The Ellicott City Firehouse Museum

3829 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043

Located in the heart of the historic district, the Firehouse Museum explores the unique challenges of fighting fire in late 19th and early 20th century Ellicott City.  The city’s topography and architecture—steep, sloping streets tightly lined with adjoined wooden buildings—provided prime conditions for the spread of fire while inhibiting the transport of water. In 1889 a group of volunteers constructed the firehouse at a cost of $500 dollars. Conveniently situated on a small, triangular lot, the original building was simply designed to house the hand-drawn and horse-drawn fire equipment. It operated until 1924, and served as municipal office and a meeting hall from 1906-1935.

Tours are available from 1pm - 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays from May through December. 

The Ellicott City Colored School, Restored

The Ellicott City Colored School, Restored

8683 Frederick Road
Ellicott City, Maryland

Opened in 1880, eleven years before Patapsco Female Institute’s closure, the Ellicott City Colored School fulfilled an 1879 Maryland State law requiring that counties provide educational facilities for African American children. The school—the first to be built with county funds—operated until 1953, before the landmark Supreme Court Case Brown vs. Board of Education called for the integration of public schools. In stark contrast with the lavish Patapsco Female Institute, the one-room structure was primitive; it never had running water, electricity, or central heating.  The building serves now serves as a genealogical resource center and a museum highlighting the history of African Americans in Howard County.   

Tours are available from 1pm - 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays from May through December. 

Original Courthouse of the Howard District

Original Courthouse of the Howard District

8334 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043

This was Howard County's first courthouse, from 1840-1842. At the time, Howard was not a separate county but instead a district within Anne Arundel County. Two sessions were held per year- one in the spring and one in the fall. The building dates to approximately 1820s and was at owned by the Ellicott family, who leased the building as a court house while the current Circuit Court was being constructed. When that court house opened in 1843, this building returned to use as a residential dwelling.

Today visitors can view exhibits on the history of the building, the court cases tried in this building and some background on the Fells Lane Community that once thrived in this area.

In 2015, the site was recognized on the National Park Service's Network to Freedom for the cases heard involving anti-slavery sentiments and actions.

The Original Courthouse of the Howard District is a self-guided tour open every day from 11 am - 4 pm. 


Baltimore & Ohio Station at Ellicott City


The Ellicott City Station is the oldest surviving railroad depot in America, and one of the oldest in the world. When built in 1831, it was the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s first 13-miles that ran from Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. The Railroad was named for its point of origin, Baltimore, and its intended destination, the Ohio River.

While passenger service was offered from the start, the depot was originally built to handle freight. Passengers boarded at the Railroad Hotel across the street until the station was remodeled in 1857 to be a passenger terminus.

Even before the station opened, Ellicott City is the site of many firsts including the B&O’s inaugural trip from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills that took place on May 22, 1830, using horse-drawn rail cars. Regular passenger service began on May 24. The B&O demonstrated its first steam locomotive, known as the Tom Thumb, at Ellicott's Mills in 1830. In the first year of operation, 80,000 passengers rode the train from Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills. Passenger service ceased at the station in 1949 and freight and express service continued until 1972. The station closed for good following Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and was saved by Historic Ellicott City, Inc., a group of local preservationists that opened the site as a museum. Today, the building is owned by Howard County and managed by their Heritage Program through the Recreation and Parks Department.

Additional Information


Featured Artifact

The Heritage Program is steward to a collection of more than 80,000 artifacts. We’d like to feature one of staff member Jake Feirson’s favorites. This china luncheon plate was recovered from the Patapsco Female Institute during the excavations of the 1970s. 

This plate was manufactured by Dutch potter Petrus Regout & Company between 1879 and 1899, so we know it is either a school-era or hotel-era PFIHP artifact. The pattern features oriental themes and a mountainous landscape. Chinese porcelain came to Europe in the early 14th century, and the pieces were prized as objects of luxury. By the 16th century, Portugal had established trade routes to the Far East, and the porcelains accompanied shipments of tea, silks, and ivory. For two centuries, trade increased, and Chinese artists began creating pieces specifically for export to Western consumers. As porcelain factories began to appear in Europe and trade began to decline, in the 18th century, Chinese manufacturers found a new market in the newly independent USA. Oriental ceramics, reminiscent of the colonial period, held a certain nostalgia for Victorian-era Americans, and were so popular that many European manufacturers, like Petrus Regout & Company, produced and exported oriental-inspired imitations. The popularity of these pieces in 19th century America reflect the consumers’ interest in their young country’s past.