Thomas Isaac Log Cabin is closed until further notice. The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park is now closed for the season. The Ellicott City Colored School, Restored and Firehouse Museum will close for the season on Sunday, December 23. 

Public hours for The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, and the Firehouse Museum are from 1pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Docent-led tours or self-guided visits are both available at this time. 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. 

For rental inquiries or photography requests at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, please call 410-313-0424. For the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum, please call 410-313-2922. 


Historic Sites

The Living History and Heritage staff aims to benefit a diverse audience by utilizing our historic resources by staying current with technology and heritage tourism trends, 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

Rails and Tales: Preschool Storytime
Hop aboard the story train!  Bring your little one out to a discovery story time at some of our historic sites in Ellicott City. Hear stories about how life was long (or not so long!) ago, play old times games, and make a history craft you can take home. Themes change each month, so be sure to visit us several times. Pre-registration required. Info: 410-313-7275 or

3-4 yrs   $3

RP9982.107  B&O EC Station Museum Dec 8  10:30-11am
RP9982.108  Firehouse Museum Dec 18  10:30-11am


Holiday Model Train Gardens
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 23 through January 6. Admission will be free so don’t miss your chance to visit this local winter tradition for all ages! Information: Jake Feirson, 410-313-2922 or

All Ages   Nov 23 - Jan 6

A Brush With History
Have you ever wanted to create your own masterpiece? Stop by the museum for a night of painting historic scenes of Old Ellicott City while enjoying the creative atmosphere of Ellicott City. Join local painter and artist Wiley Purkey, who will guide you in making your own interpretation of a selected painting from his collection. Every month the subject of the painting features a different scene in town. Learn about the history of these sites while you paint and prepare your take-home artwork! Bring your favorite beverage and snack and let's get creative! No prior painting experience necessary. Materials and supplies are provided by the artist. Pre-registration required. Info: 410-313-7275 or

21 yrs +    $35

 RP9975.104  B&O EC Station Museum Dec 6    6:30-9pm


Santa’s Workshop at the Firehouse Museum
Join Santa and his elves during Midnight Madness as the Firehouse Museum is transformed into a magical winter wonderland! Santa, with the help of some elf friends, will present a workshop that promises to captivate children of all ages. Information: Caitlin Chamberlain, 410-313-0420 or

All ages   Free
The Firehouse Museum   Dec 7   4-8 pm   F

Santa Arrives at the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum
Did you miss Santa at Midnight Madness?  You can still visit him at the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum. Come ready to share your holiday list with him at the start of the holiday festivities in the historic district.  If Mrs. Claus is done with her baking, she may come too!  Bring your camera… that perfect shot for your holiday greeting card is waiting.  Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or
All Ages   Free
Dec 8     B&O Ellicott City Station Museum   noon-3pm   Sa   
Dec 15   B&O Ellicott City Station Museum   noon-3pm   Sa   
Dec 22   B&O Ellicott City Station Museum   noon-3pm   Sa   

Field Trips

Field Trips with the Howard County Heritage Program

The Living History and Heritage Program provides archaeology, history and historic preservation-themed field trips at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park (PFI), the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, the Firehouse Museum and the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station 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.

PFI visit with three activity stations at the ruins; Walking tour of Main Street with stops at the Log Cabin. Firehouse Museum and B&O Museum. At PFI, the three activities 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. These field trips are available on Tuesdays-Thursdays. Please contact Emily Mosher for pricing: 410-313-0419 or


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 2018, the Living History and Heritage Program is bringing our field trips to your classroom! 

Choose from two one-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 low introductory rate per student. 

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.

Emily Mosher

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

Scout Badges and Homeschool Programs

             Homeschool Programs 

We can create a customized program to mirror your curriculum. Please contact Emily Mosher, Heritage Program Coordinator, for more information: 410-313-0419 or

                   Scout Badges and Activities

We are offering many history-related Girl Scout programs this fall.  Please check out our flier for more information. 

For Boy Scouts, we are offering the Archaeology Merit Badge and the Indian Lore Merit Badge.  We also have history-related Cub Scout programs available. 

For more information on any of our scout programs or to book a private program for your group, please contact Emily Mosher at 410-313-0419 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 1-4pm 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.