Thomas Isaac Log Cabin is closed until further notice. The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, the Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, and the Firehouse Museum are now closed for the season and will reopen for weekend tours on Saturday, May 4 at 1pm.

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. 



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 circa 1891, 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 first known as the Brennan Convalescent Home, and later Highland Manor. A long period of vacancy with an absentee owner led to the building's gradual deterioration. The Friends of the Patpasco Female Institute formed in 1965 as a grassroots organization to save the site from further decay. Thanks to their efforts and partnership with Howard County, 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 1-4pm, from May through November. 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

Parking Lot F
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 remained in the Isaac family until 1933. John Henry Stanton aquired the property and later willed it to his widow, Fannie Jackson Stanton, in 1963. By the 1970s, the building was vacant and boarded up. 

In the 1980s, the cabin was dismantled and rebuilt where it stood until the summer of 2018. After the May 27 flash flood, the immediate area surrounding the building was no longer an ideal or safe location. The cabin was once again moved. It is temporarily closed and stored in Parking Lot F with plans for a permanent relocation on the Barnard Fort House property. 

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.

When the site reopens, tours will be available on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4pm 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, when the firehouse relocated to 8320 Main Street, and moved again in 1937 to the building known today as the Wine Bin. In 1995, the station moved to its current location on Route 103.

The building served as municipal office and a meeting hall from 1906-1935 and later as a reading room for the Howard County Library. With decline in use, the library was closed November 15, 1988.

The exterior has since been restored to its original design, and the interior refurbished. This was accomplished through the cooperative efforts of former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, Howard County Employment and Training Center, and the Home Builders Association of Maryland. The site was dedicated as a museum in 1991. 

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, 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. In 1950, after 14 years of parents petitioning the school board, a well was dug and a water pump installed outside of the building. 

The Ellicott City Colored School closed its doors in 1953. The next school year, students attended the newly constructed Fells Lane Elementary School, which operated until the end of school segregation in 1965.

The school house went largely unused except as storage for Roger Carter's Bus Service. By 1989 the building was neglected and overgrown with vines and branches, sitting largely forgotten and hidden on the hillside. A woman named Beulah "Meach" Buckner was searching for African American graves for a project with the Central Maryland Chapter Afro-American Historical and Geneaological Society when she stumbled across the ruins of the school. After researching the building, she strongly felt the site needed to be restored and hosted various fund raisers and campaigned for its restoration. In 1995, the Department of Recreation and Parks purchased the property and began the preservation process.  

The restored building was dedicated as a museum in 2002 and currently is furnished to represent an early 1900s rural classroom. Exhibits about other segregated schools in Howard County and other exhibits highlighting the history of local African Americans can be seen.

Tours are available from 1-4pm 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.

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.

During the May 27, 2018 flash flood that occurred on Main Street, this building was lost. Remanants of the Network to Freedom exhibit are now housed at the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum. There are no current plans to rebuild. 


Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum

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



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: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or

1.5-5 yrs / $3

RP9982.204    Ellicott City Colored School, Restored    Feb 19    10:30-11am
RP9982.206  Ellicott City  Firehouse Museum    Mar 19    10:30-11am


History Days for Girl Scouts

Enjoy hands-on scouting fun! Learn what it means to seek freedom on the Underground Railroad and investigate the history of Old Ellicott City through archaeology, STEM, and geography. Some badge requirements may be met. Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or

5-8 yrs / $10    

RP9985.201    Ellicott City Colored School, Restored    Feb 17    10am-noon
RP9985.203     B&O Ellicott City Station Museum    Mar 10    10am-noon


8-11 yrs / $10

RP9985.202    Ellicott City Colored School, Restored    Feb 17    1-3pm
RP9985.203    B&O Ellicott City Station Museum    Mar 10    1-3pm


History Days for Cub Scouts

Enjoy hands-on scouting fun! Learn how the Patapsco Valley and Ellicott City were innovators in technology and communication through STEAM-based activities and discover how Native American groups of Maryland used different technologies and skills to survive. Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or

5-10 yrs / $10   

RP9985.211    B&O Ellicott City Station Museum    Feb 23    10am-noon
RP9985.212  Living Farm Heritage Museum    Mar 16    10am-noon


Archaeology in your Community: Archaeology of War

This workshop will present the different methods used by archaeologists to identify sites related to the Civil War. Using research from well-known military archaeologists, learn how to identify military features, sites, and military artifacts recovered on sites throughout the United States. We will also present the different methods to be used in our upcoming fieldwork locating Camp Johnson.Space limited, pre-registration required. Info: Kelly Palich, 410-313-0423 or

All ages / $5

RP9979.213    Heritage Program Office    Mar 11    7-8:30pm


Tour of Black History Sites in Howard County

Join the Living History and Heritage Program as we explore some of the important sites in Black History within the county.  The tour starts with a visit to a few of the historic sites in Howard County, including the Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, and then will continue to sites around the county.  Transportation between sites included.  Bring lunch or purchase during the tour.  Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or

10 yrs+ / $35

RP9979.222    Patapsco Female Institute    Mar 30    9:30am-2pm

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.

Old Ellicott City  Tour:  Visit some of Old Ellicott City's most historic sites!  Groups will rotate through three stations: one at the Patapsco Female Insittute where students will get a tour and participate in a hands-on activity using real PFI artifacts; a walking tour of Main Street with a trip to the Firehouse Museum and a program on the geography of Ellicott City in 1772; a tour of the B&O Ellioctt City Station Museum.  These field trips are available on Tuesdays-Thursdays. Please contact Emily Mosher for pricing and more information: 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

The Living History and Heritage Program is bringing our field trips to your classroom! 

We have optimized our popular on-site field trip for the classroom!  Heritage Program Staff will visit your classroom and take students on a tour of Ellicott City with hands-on activities. Handle artifacts from the Patapsco Female Institute and learn about life during the Victorian era, and take a virtual tour of Main Street to the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, the Firehouse Museum, and the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum!  Please contact Emily Mosher at for more information and for pricing.


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.  We can also book a private program for your troop on the weekend or during your troop's regular meeting time.  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 Kelly Palich at 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

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

Featured Artifact

The Heritage Program is steward to a collection of more than 80,000 artifacts. This month, we are featuring ABC Plate “Simple Simon”, ca. 1880


This month, our artifact holds more significance than initially meets the eye.  Alphabet Wares, or  ABC Plates, were popular tablewares throughout mid-19th through early 20th- centuries.  Known for the inclusion of the alphabet as part of their decoration, these wares, which ranged from plates, bowls, cups and saucers, also depicted child friendly scenes – including animals, Aesop’s Fables and Nursery Rhymes.  Found within various archaeologically contexts, these objects represent the presence of children as well as depict the significance of education throughout the late 19th- and early 20th centuries.   

While it is hard to date these wares given the lack of makers’ or registry marks, clues with the decoration itself can help identify country of origin and a general timeframe for production.  British wares of this type were always decorated with a printed design under a top lead glaze that was added before firing.  One solid color, in this case black, would be printed onto the plate – while other colored enamels would be added in pink, green, blue, brown and yellow. 

This decorative style was unique to Brownhill’s Pottery Company, located in Stoke-on-Trent, England, and in operation between 1872-1896.  Our artifact of the month was part of a series of ABC Nursery Rhyme dishes produced in 1880.  This plate was most likely a test or second- as it has slight imperfections – including ink bleed and small chips and fractures. 

Alphabet Wares are just one type of artifact that, if found on archaeological sites, indicate a level of importance on education.  Fragments of such an artifact have been found on sites associated with African Americans – who, given their onerous history with access to education, reflects how resilient these communities were to strive for a better future for their children.  This artifact is housed at the Ellicott City Colored School-Restored in Old Ellicott City.  For more information on the Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, please visit our site tab.   

In 1865, Maryland passed the Public School Instructional Act that created for the first time a statewide, free public-school system, including separate schools for newly emancipated African American children.  Additional legislation forced counties to send African Americans to public schools.  In Howard County, however, such schools were not immediately built.  During this time, communities would educate their children in private homes or churches. 
In 1879, the Secretary of the Board of Education in Howard County ordered The Colored School Fund to help fund new Colored Schools to be built; he issued a Colored School to be built in or near Ellicott City.  The following year, local landowner John Rogers (Rogers Avenue Namesake) sold a small parcel (11,272 feet) for $175 to the Board of Education, and the Ellicott City Colored School was established.

The school was located on marginal land, on the middle of a hill with very few flat places for outdoor play.  Students had to cross the Tiber Creek without a proper bridge.  The school itself, like other Colored Schools throughout the county, was in poor shape during its occupation.  Most were outdated, neglected and falling into disrepair and had very few amenities. School materials, such as furniture and books came secondhand from white schools.   ECCS had no indoor plumbing, no electricity and no running water until 1950, when a water pump was installed outside just three years prior to its closing.  By 1953, shortly before the landmark legislation Brown v. Board of Education, integrating public schools, the school fell into such disrepair that classes had once again moved back into the private homes of local community members.  In 1954, Fels Lane, the new colored school opened, and the ECCS would close its door as a school forever.

Disrepair and inadequate amenities and resources represents the discrimination and unfair treatment that African Americans continued to endure during the Jim Crow Era.  This ABC Plate, therefore, stands for the resilience and strength that community members mustered to see past these discriminations in order to provide a better future for their children.  This artifact, in conclusion, allows archaeologists and historians the ability to interpret the history of African American education in Postbellum Howard County.