Please check our main Recreation & Parks webpage for all updates.
Thomas Isaac Log Cabin is closed until further notice.
The Ellicott City Colored School, Restored, the Patapsco Female Institute, and the Firehouse Museum are now CLOSED for the season. We look forward to seeing you in the Spring!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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 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.
Public Archaeology Lab Days
For every hour spent doing fieldwork, archaeologists spend at least two hours in the lab washing, labeling, and cataloging all the artifacts! Join members of the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group to work with collections from different sites in Howard County. No experience needed. Info: Kelly Palich, 410-313-0423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All ages Heritage Program Office
Mar 28 10am-3pm Sa Free
Special Events Coming Soon!
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 email@example.com.
Customizable and shorter field trip options are available for private schools and smaller groups, please call for availability, pricing and details.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and for pricing.
For questions regarding camps, please contact Kelly Palich at email@example.com or 410-313-0423.
Little History Explorers
In Date Order
Follow along on a S.T.E.A.M. adventure with your favorite Victorian-era fairytale characters! Step into the land of make believe and help our fairytale friends solve engineering challenges for a happily ever after. Each day we will focus on a different story and participate in games, songs, and crafts.
3-5 yrs Waverly Mansion Days: 5
RP9983.802 Jun 29-Jul 3 9am-12pm $130.00
Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
Discover the history of transportation at the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum! We’ll look at trains, planes, automobiles, and more with stories, games and crafts.
3-5 yrs B&O Ellicott City Station Museum Days: 5
RP9983.803 Aug 24-28 9am-12pm $130.00
Explore Native American culture and history through storytelling, music, games, and hands-on crafts! Each day we will focus on a different Native American tribe from across the United States to learn about their history and heritage.
3-5 yrs Patapsco Female Institute Days: 5
RP9983.801 Jun 15-19 9am-12pm $130.00
Time Traveling Kids
In Alphabetical Order
Uncover the secrets of Howard County's 12,000-year history through archaeology! Learn the five steps of archaeology through investigation, research, field work and interpretation uncovering the past at a real site.
10-13 yrs Patapsco Female Institute Days: 5
RP9983.813 Jul 13-17 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.814 Jul 13-17 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
RP9983.825 Jun 29-Jul 3 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.826 Jun 29-Jul 3 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
Ellicott City Adventure
Travel back in time throughout Old Ellicott City to investigate history through hands-on fun! Learn survival skills of the Native Americans, think like an early colonist as you try to settle your community along the Patapsco, investigate transportation and communication at the B&O Railroad and solve a history mystery through archaeology!
6-10 yrs Patapsco Female Institute Days: 5
RP9983.811 Jun 22-26 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.812 Jun 22-26 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
RP9983.827 Jul 20-24 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.828 Jul 20-24 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
Frontier Survival Skills
Experience life as the early colonists did in the Frontier of Howard County in the 18th Century. Learn historical trades that helped the new colony thrive!
10-13 yrs Waverly Mansion Days: 5
RP9983.815 Jul 27-31 9am-3pm $300
RP9983.816 Jul 27-31 3pm-5pm $50 Aftercare
Native American Survival Skills
Experience life as the Native Americans through the lens of Experimental Archaeology! Learn the art of stone tool making, shelter building, pottery making, and more.
10-13 yrs Living Farm Heritage Museum Days: 5
RP9983.817 Aug 10-14 9am-3pm $300
RP9983.818 Aug 10-14 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
Did you ever wonder what it was like to grow up in the 1800s? Spend the week in a 19th century mansion and dress in time period costumes as you make authentic crafts, play games of the era and learn Victorian dancing. End the camp with a Tea Party!
6-9 yrs Waverly Mansion Days: 5
RP9983.819 Aug 10-14 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.820 Aug 10-14 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
RP9983.829 Jul 6-10 9am-3pm $275
RP9983.830 Jul 6-10 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
Archaeology Field School
Participate in real archaeological research alongside professional archaeologists. Learn how to conduct field and laboratory work, identify and interpret artifacts, and participate in experimental archaeology. This is an intensive program - be prepared to be outside all day, lift buckets, dig and get dirty!
14-18 yrs Living Farm Heritage Museum Days: 5
RP9983.821 Jul 20-24 9am-3pm $300
RP9983.822 Jul 20-24 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
RP9983.823 Aug 17-21 9am-3pm $300
RP9983.824 Aug 17-21 3-5pm $50 Aftercare
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 short Friday afternoon performance for friends and family. Info: Ron Heneghan at 410-244-8570 X113 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Emily Mosher, 410-313-0419 or email@example.com.
6-9 yrs Patapsco Female Institute Days: 5
RP9980.801 Jun 22-26 $265
RP9980.802 Jun 29-Jul 3 $265
10-13 yrs Patapsco Female Institute Days: 5
RP9980.803 Jul 6-10 $265
RP9980.804 Jul 13-17 $265
FREE ADMISSION TO ALL SITES LISTED BELOW
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Archaeology of Howard County
Saturday, February 8th 2-3:30 PM Free All Ages
Learn about the archaeological resources in your community! Examine artifacts recovered from historic County Sites and learn about opportunities to volunteer with Howard County’s Archaeology Program.
The Archaeology of the Patapsco Female Institute
B&O Ellicott City Station Museum
Sunday, March 8th 2-2:30 PM Free All Ages
For Women’s History Month, come learn how archaeologists have studied one of the most progressive female boarding schools in the 19th-century Howard County! Learn how to identify artifacts and work with real collections from this site!
We can create a customized program to mirror your curriculum. We also offer a Homeschool History Day series in our activity guide. Please contact Kelly Palich, Heritage Program Coordinator, for more information: 410-313-0423 or email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 for either the Patapsco Female Institute or Waverly Mansion, please contact Gillian Gonder at 410-313-0424 or email@example.com.
For the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum rental information, please contact Jake Feirson at 410-313-2922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about rentals at Belmont, please click here.
Photos by K. Rainier Photography
For a map of the Ellicott City Historic Sites, please click here.
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.
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.