Two summers ago, I paid a visit to Belmont Manor in Elkridge, Maryland. Part of my route put me through Ellicott City. I remember seeing the hilly main street, the historic homes made of stone, and the train station. With the mercury pushing to the 60s yesterday, we took in this enchanting place eight miles west of Baltimore.
Ellicott City needs no introduction. Magazines such as Money have ranked it several times as a Top 20 Place to Live in the U.S. Having said that, we did not realize what all was in store for a couple who loves authentic history and mom and pop shops. This historic town holds a certain je ne sais quoi, a very relaxed feeling despite an endless stream of traffic choking Main Street, and at times it seemed we were in a western town like Placerville, California.
Much is owed to three Quaker brothers and millers - Jonathan, Joseph and Andrew Ellicott – who arrived from Pennsylvania in the 1750s in search of a place to build a flour mill. Together they founded Ellicott Mills in 1772. Eight years later, they funded the construction of a road to Baltimore, one that transported their goods to the markets. This road became part of the National Road. The Ellicotts built much of the early infrastructure in and to Baltimore. Historians give them much credit for promoting fertilizers and grain production and building what became one of the largest milling towns in the East.
We’ve visited a lot of great coffee shops and we add this one to the list. Cozy inside with chatty regulars and the service was quick and friendly. Coffee hot and fresh served in green, handcrafted mugs.
This is one of the nicest visitor's centers we have ever seen, maybe the best. Inside an old post office, they’ve put together a great experience with interpretive panels, oil paintings, books and a friendly atmosphere. The old post office box are great for reminiscing – “air mail.”
Visiting Ellicott City and not checking out their B&O Railroad Museum would be like going to U Street and not eating at Ben’s Chili Bowl. As their website notes:
"This station is the oldest surviving railroad station in America and the site of the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial track ever constructed in America. The first thirteen miles of the B&O Railroad ran from Baltimore’s Mount Clare Station through the Patapsco River Valley to Ellicott’s Mills."
Using granite, the station was built in 1830. The cars hauled freight before serving passengers in 1857. That long run of service ended in 1949, while freight shipping reached the end of the line in 1972. The line still runs for CSX.
Ellicott City’s pride in their history is reflected in their stock of historical markers. This building was the town's first fire department.
They undercooked my elk burger, but all was forgiven when I sipped my beer - full bodied, dark brown, caramel aroma, brewed on the premises.
A very unique place high up on the hill, a church readapted, and don't miss the document on the Annapolis Tea Burning.