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Ellicott City

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Central to the development of Howard County and emblematic of its distinctive architectural traditions is Ellicott City, Maryland’s first and most successful mill town. Founded in 1772 by the Ellicott brothers as Ellicott’s Mills, it became the epicenter of a regional flour-milling industry within the Patapsco River Valley, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Ellicott’s Mills helped to encourage crop diversification, while providing the model for best practices within the milling industry. The Ellicotts, Quakers who migrated from southeastern Pennsylvania, where milling was already deeply entrenched, developed a large-scale grain-milling complex and associated industries through a system of vertical integration and the construction of the Baltimore and Frederick Turnpike to the port of Baltimore. The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad’s first destination was Ellicott’s Mills, arriving in 1831. The town continued to grow and prosper throughout the nineteenth century as a mill town, commercial and governmental center, transportation hub, and summer retreat. Its importance was recognized in 1839 by its designation as the seat of the Howard District of Anne Arundel County and finally of Howard County, in 1851.

Ellicott City is also known for its varied topography and handsome stone buildings. The town is shaped by the steep, rocky terrain and by the confluence of the Patapsco River and its tributaries. Buildings range from worker housing to hotels, municipal and commercial buildings, and the B&O Railroad Station. The use of locally quarried granite is the most distinguishing feature of the architectural landscape. While influenced by the Georgian and Greek revivals, they are defined less by style than by their skillfully laid, random ashlar stonework, including quoining, monolithic lintels, and fine mortar joints. The original mill was lost to floods, but a flour mill still sits on its site, a distinctive modern structure built of steel and concrete, brick and glass (1917; 27 Frederick Road). Some early buildings stand near the mill, including the George Ellicott House (1789; 24 Frederick) and the Ellicott’s Mills operator’s house (c. 1789; 8000 Main Street). To the west lies the civic center surrounding the Howard County Courthouse (CM1) and the residential district, and to the northeast, the former mill village of Oella (CM34).

Writing Credits

Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie

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