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.
Archaeology Month Lab Day- Sunday April 15 1-3 PM $15, Ages 12+, Pre-registration required 410-313-7275 or www.howardcountymd.gov/rap Location: Heritage Program Office, 9944 Maryland 108, Ellicott City, MD 21042
Have you ever wondered what goes into an archaeological investigation? April is Archaeology Month in Maryland and this is a perfect opportunity to get your hands dirty articulating artifacts, sorting and identifying different types of material classes all recovered at the Patapsco Female Institute during excavations from 1989-1993. An archaeologist will be present to lead the lab activities and share experiences from the field.
Colorful Characters of Ellicott City- Thursdays April 12 & July 12 7-9 PM, $15, Ages 21+, Pre-registration required 410-313-7275 or www.howardcountymd.gov/rap Location: B&O Ellicott City Station Museum
It's kind of like Ripley's Believe it or Not! This presentation on the interesting people in Ellicott City's past will take you by surprise as you learn about a Miami tribal chief, a Secretary of State, a President, the Wheelbarrow Lunatic, the "King of the Wild Frontier," and more! Whether you can believe it or not, they all have a connection to Ellicott City. Find out how in this two-hour event presented by Maryland History Tours.
Ghostly Guides: Patapsco Female Institute- Fridays April 27, May 25, August 24 8-11 PM, $25, Ages 16+, Pre-registration required 410-313-7275 or www.howardcountymd.gov/rap Location: Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park
Gain exclusive after-hours access to the 181-year old ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute. Take a guided tour of the dramatic ruins, then gather around a campfire and listen to the stories and legends surrounding the Victorian-era girls school. Use the same equipment as professional ghost hunters in your search for evidence of paranormal activity! S'mores and soft drinks served. Rec & Parks shuttle will take participants from the Circuit Court parking lot (free) to the ruins but accessible parking is available onsite.
Ghostly Guides: B&O Ellicott City Station- Fridays April 20, May 25, June 8, July 10 (Tuesday), August 10 8-11 PM, $25, Ages 16+, Pre-registration required 410-313-7275 or www.howardcountymd.gov/rap Location: B&O Ellicott City Station Museum
Come check out the oldest surviving train station in the United States to uncover possible paranormal activity. Take a guided tour of the building, and gather around a campfire in the old station turntable with s'mores and listen to the stories and legends surrounding this historic railroad station. Afterwards, soak up the atmosphere as you use the same equipment as professional ghost hunters to gather evidence of paranormal activity and draw your own ghostly conclusions!
Mother & Daughter Cross Stitch- Saturday May 19 from 5:30-8 PM, $10, Ages 10+, Pre-registration required 410-313-7275 or www.howardcountymd.gov/rap Location: B&O Ellicott City Station Museum
Join in the fun and learn how to make an old-fashioned needle work sampler, just like young ladies did in the 1700s and 1800s! Learn the basics of counted cross-stitch needlework, along with a few traditional motifs that were popular at the time. After you finish your sample, you can frame it or give it as a gift to someone special. Supplies for project are provided.
History Alive! With the Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute- Sunday April 29, noon-4 PM, All Ages, Free, No pre-registration required.
Enjoy a fun afternoon for the whole family and get into the spirit of the Victorian era at both Mt. Ida and the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park. Bring a picnic, try on costumes, play old-time games, and look up your family names in the PFI Student Database- you may be a descendant of a former student! Explore Mt. Ida, built in 1828 by Robert Cary Long, Jr. who also designed PFI, and enjoy a short hike up to the captivating ruins for docent-led tours and activities on site. Free event parking in Circuit Court parking lot.
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 (PFIHP), the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin and Firehouse Museum and the Baltimore & Ohio Ellicott City Railroad 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 and Firehouse Museum; B&O Museum visit. At PFIHP 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 for pricing- 410-313-0419 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Customizable and shorter field trip options are available for private schools and smaller groups, please call for availability, pricing and details.
New in 2018, 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 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.
FREE ADMISSION TO ALL SITES LISTED BELOW
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
We can create a customized program to mirror your curriculum. Please contact Emily Mosher, Heritage Program Coordinator, for more information: 410-313-0419 or email@example.com
Scout Badges and Activities
For both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts we have certified merit badge counselors in archaeology and Native American history, plus a variety of options for other history related badges.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by K. Rainier Photography
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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