Historic Ellicott City, Maryland: Things to See and Do

Explore the Historic Sites, Antique Shops, Restaurants and More

Ellicott City
© Jon Dawson

Ellicott City is a five block historic district in Howard County, Maryland that is nestled in the scenic hills above the Patapsco River. Founded in 1772, the town has an old world charm and offers unique shopping and dining destinations. Historic Ellicott City is also home to the oldest railroad station in the U.S., the last operating grist mill in Maryland and the first federally funded highway.

2016 Update: Following the unprecedented flash-flood that devastated Historic Ellicott City in July, the town is set to reopen just in time for Small Business Saturday on November 26, 2016. The Official Grand Reopening Celebration begins at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting across Main Street. More than 40 businesses and restaurants will reopen for the holiday season. Throughout the day performers and artists will be playing on sidewalks, including musicians from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

See Photos of Ellicott City

Getting to Historic Ellicott City: The historic town is located about 11 miles west of Downtown Baltimore and 30 miles northeast of Washington DC.

From US-40 E/Baltimore National Pike: Turn right onto Rogers Ave., Turn right onto Ellicott Mills Dr. and left onto Frederick Rd/Main St.

From I-95: Take Exit 47A-47B for I-195 E toward BWI Airport/MD-166/Catonsville, Keep right at the fork and merge onto I-195 W, Exit onto S Rolling Rd, Turn left onto Frederick Rd./Main St.

A Brief History of the Ellicott Family

In the early 1770s, three Quaker brothers - Joseph, Andrew and John Ellicott, who had grown up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, moved to Maryland to find land where they could grow wheat and harness water power for a mill. The Ellicotts were industrious and developed new methods for milling flour, constructed machine shops, and experimented in farming and technology. They established a successful business and built large homes at Ellicott Mills. The town became a growing, bustling community and home to mill workers and merchants.

Historic Sites and Attractions

  • Heritage Orientation Center – 8334 Main St. Ellicott City, MD (410) 313-5131. The small stone building, located behind the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, was the county’s first courthouse. Today it houses unique exhibits on the 18th and 19th Century milling techniques, floods of Ellicott Mills, and the Ellicott Family. Open daily from 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • Thomas Isaac Log Cabin - Main St. and Ellicott Mills Dr. Ellicott, City, MD. The historic structure dates back to 1780, although it was originally located on Merryman Street. It was dismantled in 1980, stored by the County at Centennial Park and reassembled at its current location at the corner of Main Street and Ellicott Mills Drive in 1987. Today it is the headquarters of the County's Ellicott City Historic Sites Consortium and is used for historic and educational programming. Open: Friday & Saturday 1- 6 p.m., Sunday Noon to 5 p.m. and Monday 1-6 p.m.
  • Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum – 2711 Maryland Avenue, Ellicott City, MD (410) 461-1945. Built in 1831, the historic train station is the oldest surviving railroad station in America, and was the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial railroad in the country. It is named on the National Register of Historic Places and was the reason Ellicott City became a prominent place during the nineteenth century. The museum is known for its living history exhibits and volunteer re-enactors, including “The Civil War: A Maryland Story,” “Roads to Rails,” “World War II, the Home Front,” and the annual Holiday Model Train Exhibit. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • The George Ellicott House - Main Street, Ellicott City, MD. The house was built in 1789 by the fourth son of Andrew and Elizabeth Ellicott. George Ellicott was a Quaker, who was a miller, a surveyor, merchant and astronomer. The house was damaged so badly during Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 that it stood abandoned until 1987, when it was relocated across the road. In 1989, the house was restored and it is now used as office space.
  • Howard County Historical Society Museum & Library - 8328 Court Avenue Ellicott City, MD (410) 750-0370. Located in a historic church on a street above Main Street, the museum is home to hundreds of objects that tell the story of Howard County’s history from before European settlement to the present day. Free organ concerts and educational programs are offered throughout the year. Open Friday & Saturday: 1-5 p.m.

    Restaurants and Bars in Historic Ellicott City

    Cacao Lane - 8066 Main Street (410) 461-1378
    The Diamondback Tavern - 3733 Old Columbia Pike (410) 313-8530
    Ellicott Mills Brewing Company - 8308 Main Street (410) 313-8141
    Johnny’s Bistro on Main - 8167 Main Street Ellicott City, MD (410) 461-8210
    Judge’s Bench Pub - 8385 Main Street Ellicott City, MD (410) 908-7111
    Portalli’s Italian Restaurant - 8085 Main Street Ellicott City, MD (410) 720-2330
    Tea on the Tiber - 8081 Main Street Ellicott City, MD (410) 480-8000
    Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant - 8293 Main Street Ellicott City, MD (410) 465-4004

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