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 open for the season.

Public hours for The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, 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-3pm; Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 10am-5pm.  Free admission to all sites. 

The Patapsco Female Institute will be CLOSED the following days: Sept 21, Sept 28, Oct 5, Oct 12, Oct 19, Nov 2. 

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

History Day for Scouts: Citizen Scientist: Archaeology
Work on your Archaeology Merit Badge or Citizen Scientist Journey as you explore and investigate the Patapsco Female Institute. Learn about the steps of archaeology including historical research and archaeological fieldwork with real artifacts, and help interpret Howard County's history. 
9-18 yrs     $15 per participant

RP9985.501   Patapsco Female Institute  Sept 15  10am-3pm


Homeschool History Day: Preservation in the Ruins!
Did you know that Historic Ellicott City is a nationally recognized historic district? Study the Patapsco Female Institute and become detectives in the ruins, incorporating history, archaeology, math, geography, and science into this interactive preservation learning experience!  Info: Kelly Palich, or 410-313-0423. 
7-16 yrs   $20 per participant 

RP9979.511  Patapsco Female Institute  Sept 16  10am-3pm


Introduction to Blacksmithing
Explore the art of shaping metal using heat and force.  Over the course of this two-day, 12-hour blacksmithing workshop, watch demonstrations by one of the few local master blacksmiths and make your own iron-forged tool using traditional methods.  Strike while the iron is hot and forge your own piece of history!  Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or
16+yrs   $160 per participant  Classes: 2

RP9989.501 Living Farm Heritage Museum  Sept 21-22    9am-3pm



Public Archaeology Lab Days
For every hour spent doing fieldwork, archaeologists spend at least two hours in the lab washing, labeling, and cataloging the artifacts! Join members of the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group to work with collections from different sites in Howard County. No experience needed. Space limited, pre-registration required. Info: Kelly Palich, 410-313-0423 or

All Ages  10am-3pm  Free
Sunday, September 22nd  Howard County Farm Museum
Saturday, October 19th  Heritage Program Office
Sunday, November 3rd  Heritage Program Office


Ghostly Guides at the Patapsco Female Institute
Gain exclusive after-hours access to the 182-year-old ruins and see what adventures await you! tour the ruins, learn about various ghost hunting equipment, and then explore the former girl's school to ask unseen residents questions, take photos, and detect supernatural activity.  Info: Kelly Palich, 410-313-0423 or
16yrs +    $25 per participant

RP9978.511  Patapsco Female Institute  Oct 4    8-11pm


RP9978.512  Patapsco Female Institute  Oct 11  8-11pm  
RP9978.513  Patapsco Female Institute  Oct 18  8-11pm  


Intermediate Blacksmithing
Go more in depth exploring the art of shaping metal using heat and force in this intermediate course. Must have taken Introduction to Blacksmithing course.  Info: Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or
16+yrs  $160 per participant  Classes: 2

RP9989.502 Living Farm Heritage Museum  Oct 5-6    9am-3pm



History Alive! with the Friends of the PFI
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 lawn games, and look up your family names in our PFI student database-- you may be a descendant of a former student! Free event parking and shuttle in the Circuit Court Parking Lot. Info: Emily Mosher, or 410-313-0419. 

All Ages    FREE

Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park  Oct 13  Noon-4pm



Between the Bridges: A Walk and Talk of the Historic Guilford Industrial District
Guilford Factory was a village centered on a mill and quarry complex just north of the Little Patuxent River. This year, several local citizens are proposing a National Register Savage-Guilford Historic District to commemorate the history of this community. Join community member Wayne Davis as he share the history, and visit many sites associated with the village center. Info: Kelly Palich, or 410-313-0423.
10+yrs    $10 per participant

RP9980.504  Location TBD  Nov 2    1-4pm



Homeschool History Day: Wigwams and Wampum: Native American Heritage in Howard County

Spend the day at the Living Farm Heritage Museum learning about the Native American groups who once called the Patuxent River Valley home. Explore these ancient cultures through artifacts and experimental archaeology including shelter buildings, tone tool making, food preparation and pottery making. Info: Kelly Palich, or 410-313-0423. 

7-16 yrs              $20 per participant

RP9979.513  Living Farm Heritage Museum  Nov 4    10am-3pm



History Day for Scouts: A Victorian Holiday

Travel to the 19th century to discover what it was like to celebrate the winter holidays during the Victorian era! Participate in traditional games and activities, arts, and crafts. End your program with a holiday themed tea party. Info: Kelly Palich, 410.313.0423 or  

5-13 yrs                $15 per particiant

RP9985.504  Waverly Mansion   Dec 7    1-4pm


A Victorian Holiday: Winter Traditions

Celebrate the winter holidays in Victorian fashion. spend the afternoon learning the origins of traditional holiday songs and poems, and make your own historic gifts and decorations! 

All Ages                      $15 per particiant 

RP9980.515  Waverly Mansion   Dec 15    1-3pm


Special Events

History Alive! with the Friends of the PFI

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 lawn games, and look up your family names in our PFI student database-- you may be a descendant of a former student! Free event parking and shuttle in the Circuit Court Parking Lot.

All Ages           Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park      noon-4 pm Free

October 13


Santa’s Workshop at the Firehouse Museum

Join Santa and his elves as the Firehouse Museum is transformed into a magical winter wonderland! Take a glimpse into his workshop that promises to captivate children of all ages.  Bring your camera; your perfect holiday photo is waiting!  Information: Emily Mosher,, or 410-313-0419.    

All Ages           Firehouse Museum      Dec 6               4-8pm              F          Free


Midnight Madness at Historic Sites

Take a break from shopping during Midnight Madness and join us as we kick off the 2019 holiday season in Historic Ellicott City!  Visit our Firehouse Museum and the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum and see everything decked out for the season! Information: Emily Mosher,, or 410-313-0419.    

All Ages

Firehouse Museum and B&O EC Station Museum     Dec 6               6-10pm            Free

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.


Summer Camps

2020 Summer Camps coming soon! 

Site Tours


B&O Ellicott City Station Museum: Wednesdays- Thursdays: 10am-3pm; Fridays-Sundays: 10am-5pm; Mondays and Tuesdays: Closed

Firehouse Museum: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4pm through December 2019.
Ellicott City Colored School, Restored: Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm - 4 pm through December 2019.
Thomas Isaac Log Cabin: Indefinitely Closed
Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park: Most Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm-4pm through November 2019.

Original Courthouse of the Howard District: Closed

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

Archaeology in Your Community

Archaeology in your Community

Join the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group for their monthly meeting.  Meets second Monday of the month.  Ages 7+.  Info: Kelly Palich, 410-313-0423 or


Archaeology of the Patapsco Valley State Park

The Patapsco River Valley contains a wide breadth of historic and prehistoric resources which help paint a picture of human occupation for thousands of years. Come learn about this history and help learn how you can become a steward of preservation in the first State Park of Maryland! 

Ages 7+           B&O EC Station                     Classes: 1                     Free

Sept 9              7-8pm              M


Colonial Settlement in the Patuxent: The Raven Site

Through artifacts and primary resources, follow Thomas Hutchcraft on his journey as he settles along the Patuxent in present day Triadelphia Reservoir.  Learn how archaeologists had to act quickly to record this site before it was threatened by looters or rising reservoir waters and examine results from spring/summer 2019 salvage recovery and recordation of this significant site! 

Ages 7+                       Heritage Program Office                     Free

Oct 14             7-8pm              M


Forgotten Ruins: Investigating the Mount View Tenant Site

Explore archaeological findings of a tenant site associated with Mount View Farm owned by Washington Gaither.  Historical research, along with the forgotten ruins of a wood frame dwelling, suggest an early 20th-century tenant occupation, however, after initial survey, additional foundations were identified, indicating an earlier occupation.  Learn what archaeologists found this summer and the new interpretations of this often forgotten past of Howard County. 

Ages 7+                       Heritage Program Office                     Free

Nov 11            7-8pm              M

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. 


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.  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 Gillian Gonder 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

This month's artifact represents the Patapsco Female Institute and its progressive curriculum in science and mathematics, as introduced by Principal Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps.  Featured are shards of a terra cotta flower pot, used to hold flowers or other houseplants. 


Terra Cotta is a type of earthenware – clay based, unglazed ceramic with a very porous body.  Terra cotta was normally used for utilitarian purposes, including vessels (flower pots), water and waste water pipes and roofing tiles. 

The Victorian Era saw the first major use of houseplants by the middle class.  The Industrial Revolution, coupled with the advancement of architecture, allowed for better heated homes and more natural light. 

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps, Principal of the Patapsco Female Institute from 1840-1856, was not only an educator, but was also an author of several science textbooks in the fields of botany, chemistry, and geology.  Between 1828 and 1837, Phelps established herself as a reputable publisher by publishing 10 textbooks, most focusing on botany and the education of young women. During this time, books on gardening and botany became more widely available, further increasing the interest in horticulture. 

Her books received praise as excellent educational tools for women. These books became the standard textbooks across the United States and Canada, selling over 3,500 copies. Phelps became a household name through her writings and as a lecturer. One of her most popular books, Familiar Lectures on Botany, published in 1832, was most likely a text book used as part of the curriculum at the Patapsco Female Institute.

Numerous fragments of terra cotta flower pots, including this whole pot, have been recovered from this site, suggesting that Mrs. Phelps encouraged young budding horticulturalists.