The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park is closed for weekend tours for the 2016 season. 


Historic Sites

The 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.

Howard County Recreation and Parks Heritage staff offers a variety of educational programs, special events, tours of its museums and parks and many opportunities for people of all ages throughout the county.

PFI anniversary badminton

5th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Remembrance

All ages / Jan 16 / Free

Join us on this special day of remembrance at the Roger Carter Community Center, named in memory of Howard County’s own prominent community leader, to learn about sites of significance to black history in Howard County and the legacy of music in the civil rights movement.  Please bring a nonperishable food item for donation to a local food bank.  Info: Jaimie Wilder, 410-313-0419 or

Roger Carter Comm Ctr 11am-1pm M


Field Trips with the Howard County Heritage Program

The Heritage Program provides archaeology and historic preservation-themed field trips at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park (PFIHP), and downtown Ellicott City walking tours in conjunction with Howard County Tourism.

PFI Field trips are optimized for third through fifth graders and last approximately 2.5 hours. Every field trip includes an introduction to archaeological principles, an opportunity to examine real 19th century artifacts from the historic site, and three, rotating, 30-min sessions, one of which is a tour of the stabilized ruins. Teachers may then customize their field trip by choosing two of the following sessions:

Site Mapping

Beautiful ceramics, glass bottles, jewelry, brick, and bone—the things left behind in the ground teach us volumes about the lives of our ancestors. But, no matter how cool the artifact, much of its archaeological value is lost if we don’t know where it was found. Use a grid to make your own “site map,” plot the locations of different artifacts, and think critically to draw conclusions about the site’s uses. In archaeology, it’s not just what you find, but what you find out!


It’s no secret that archaeology is a dirty job, but did you know that the dirt is almost as important as the artifacts that come out of it? Layers of soil, or strata, reveal important information about the age of the artifacts and the life of the site as a whole.  Practice drawing a profile view—an essential component of the archaeologist’s record-keeping process—and identifying different qualities of different soils. 


Native Americans in Maryland started making pottery about 3,000 years ago. Different styles of pottery originate from different regions of Maryland in different eras. Archaeologists distinguish these styles based on the materials used, the method of construction, and the decoration on the vessel. Try making and decorating your own clay pinch-pot!

Lithics Rock!

Long before the Ellicott brothers settled the Patapsco River Valley, native communities populated the region. What clues do we have from their past? Stone tools and projectile points outlast many artifacts, and can tell us a lot about early human history. Test your knowledge of local geology and learn the basics of flint knapping—the technique of shaping rocks into tools.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

How do historians learn about the past? Discuss the difference between primary and secondary source documents by examining 19th century maps, photographs, letters and diary entries written by students of the Patapsco Female Institute. Then, try your hand at calligraphy and use a fountain pen to write your own letter home as a student attending the Patapsco Female Institute.

Victorian Dance

The Patapsco Female Institute offered a rigorous curriculum, but it wasn’t all work and no play for the students. Weekly dance lessons prepared the young women for parties and gatherings, including a much-anticipated ball hosted by the school. Step into the students’ [dancing!] shoes and learn the Virginia reel, a popular social dance from the 1800s.


Textile arts were a key component to the education of every young lady in the 19th century. Get a taste of a day in the life of a Patapsco Female Institute student, learn two different embroidery stitches and exercise your creativity with this centuries-old art form.


We can accommodate groups of up to 40 students. PFIHP field trips are offered Tuesday-Thursday in the Spring and Fall. A fee of $4.00 per participant (students and chaperones) covers the cost of materials, supplies, and staffing and supports Heritage programming and preservation efforts. A picnic area is available for bag lunches and accommodations will be made for individuals with disabilities upon request.

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.

Kiri Houpt

The Firehouse Museum, The Patapsco Female Institute, the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, and the Ellicott City Colored School, Restored will resume normal open hours on October 8th, 2016. 

Firehouse Museum: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4pm
Ellicott City Colored School, Restored: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4 pm
Thomas Isaac Log Cabin: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4pm 
Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park: Sundays, 1pm - 4pm

For more information about tours of our Main Street Ellicott City sites, contact Kiri Houpt at 410-313-0423 or


 2016 Summer Camps

Hands-On Archaeology Adventure Camp

8-13 yrs / 5 days, start dates below / $250

We invite you to spend the week as archaeologists piecing the past together through hands-on experience, games, and activities. Get ready to take an exciting and educational journey into a hidden side of Ellicott City, uncovering secrets of Howard County’s 12,000 year history! Practice survey methods, digging, sifting and mapping of artifacts at a 19th century girl’s school. Visits to other local historic sites will enrich your experience by showing the many ways archaeology tells us a story of the ways people lived in the past. Bring a reusable water bottle, snack and a lunch each day (no nut products). Fee includes swimming at Roger Carter Community Center from 2-3pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. For more info: Jaimie Wilder at 410-313-0419 or

Grades 3-5

RP9983.801 June 20-24 Patapsco Female Institute 9am-3pm M-F
Grades 6-8

RP9983.802 July 11-15 Patapsco Female Institute 9am-3pm M-F


One Room School House Rocks!

7-11 yrs / 4 days starting June 27 / $129

Join us again this summer as we experience a typical day in a one-room schoolhouse! Use a slate to write, participate in recitations and a spelling bee, and even enjoy an old-fashioned recess, all in period clothing! This camp is the real deal- you'll even meet a person who attended a one-room schoolhouse. Try your hand at some of the daily activities that were performed before and after school. Experience school as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn did (had he gone to class!) This is the kind of "summer school" you will love. Bring a nut free snack and reusable water bottle. Info: Jaimie Wilder at 410-313-0419 or

RP9981.801 Pfeiffer’s Corner Schoolhouse 9am-noon M-Th


Victorian Dreams Living History Half Day Camp

8-12 yrs / 5 days starting Aug 8 / $165

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a young girl in the 1800s? Get ready to time travel back to the late Victorian era in a one-room schoolhouse built in 1883. Dress up in camp-adapted pinafores as you learn the basics of knitting, play games of the time period and learn Victorian dancing. Enjoy your choice of a selection of caffeine free and herbal teas each morning as you learn social graces of the Victorian era and plan your special graduation ceremony. Make your own journal each day with a calligraphy pen as a keepsake from the camp. Bring a nut free snack and a reusable water bottle each day. Info: Jaimie Wilder at 410-313-0419 or

RP9982.801 Waverly Mansion 9am-noon M-F


Shakespeare Kids with Chesapeake Shakespeare Co.

Grades, start dates below / 1 wk / $250

Have a blast this summer learning Shakespeare with members of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company! Acting Shakespeare is made fun and easy and it’s done just as they did it in Shakespeare’s day… in the great outdoors. Each section ends with a Friday afternoon performance for friends and family.  Bring a reusable water bottle, snack and lunch each day (no peanut products). Fee covers T-shirt and additional materials. Info: Ron Heneghan at 410-244-8570 X113 or or Caitlin Chamberlain 410-313-0420 or

Grades 1-4

RP9980.801 Jun 27 Patapsco Female Institute 9AM-3PM M-F

Grades 5-8

RP9980.802 Jul 5 Patapsco Female Institute 9AM-3PM Tu-F

Grades 9-12

RP9980.803 Jul 18 Patapsco Female Institute 9AM-3PM M-F





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.  

For more information about rental regulations or to schedule a walk-through, contact Erin McNamara at or 410-313-0424.

Photos by K. Rainier Photography

flier image file



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, languages, literature, math, and music in an effort to mold elegant young ladies into engaged, active citizens. Since the school’s closure at the end of the 19th century, the site has hosted a hotel, a Summer Theater, and, briefly, a nursing home. The ruins of this grand example of Greek-revival architecture were stabilized and restored in 1993. Explore a slice of 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 will reopen for regular public tours in April 2017.  

The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin

8394 Main St.
Ellicott City, MD 21043

As Main Street’s oldest county Heritage site—constructed around 1780—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 to the site a sense of Howard County’s colonial past.

Tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm - 4pm through December 18th. 

The Ellicott City Firehouse Museum

3829 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043

Located in the heart of downtown, 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—later 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 through December 18th. 

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 through the first week in December. 

The Heritage Orientation Center

8334 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043

The Heritage Orientation Center is housed in what was Howard County's first courthouse, from 1840 - 1843. 

The Heritage Orientation Center will be closed to the public until further notice. 

Featured Artifact

The Heritage Program is steward to a collection of more than 80,000 artifacts. For the month of October, 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.