Historic Ellicott City – A Pleasant Surprise!
By Bob Tagert
Historic Ellicott City – A Pleasant Surprise!
This month’s Road Trip took us to Ellicott City, Maryland. Unfortunately, over the last five years the biggest publicity that Historic Ellicott City has gotten has been the devastating news of the floods of 2016 and 2018 but one would never know it was so severely affected by the looks of this quaint little town today.
Ellicott City was founded in 1772 and built along the Patapsco River. It is located 10 miles west of Baltimore and at the site of the Tiber River, along with other connected tributaries, causing it to be vulnerable to severe flooding. Before the 2018 flood, Ellicott City was pretty much submerged during the 2016 Maryland flood on July 30th. That flooding was considered an oddity, likely only occurring once every 1,000 years.
When we recently drove to Ellicott City we did not notice any residual problems from the floods. The town is nestled in a small valley that lies along the Patapsco River. It is what you could call a “vertical” town. Walking is the best form of transportation as street parking is minimal but the town does have large free parking lots. This quaint city is a picture perfect little place with many shops, restaurants, galleries, salons and museums. Most of the shops are situated on Main Street which runs through the center of town. There are also many shops, etc. located on the side streets that intersect Main Street and they are walkable as well.
On the snow covered day that we were there the town had a vibe of a ski resort nestled at the bottom of the mountain. Indeed, on snowy days the 150 foot elevation from the town can make for a nice short ski run. The city is a five block historic district. Ellicott City is also home to the oldest surviving railroad station in America and was the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial railroad in the country. Today that train station is a museum that was made from the abundance of granite from the surrounding hills. 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. The last grist mill to be operation in Maryland is located at the bottom of Main Street on River Road on the Patapsco River. Ellicott City is also home to the first federally funded highway. Also of interest to the baseball fan – the historical St. Paul’s Catholic Church that Babe Ruth was married in is located just off of Main Street and for you Davy Crockett fans, he was known to have spent some time in the City. Stop in at the Visitors Center and ask for more information about these two.
Guess by now you can tell that this is a great place for a history buff to visit, but don’t discount those who just want to stroll, shop and eat in a very unique setting. There is something for everyone.
Unfortunately, shopping wasn’t on the agenda due to the time constraint, but eating was and there are some fun eateries along Main Street. We walked by quite a few and decided to go with some hearty bar food on the chilly day. We chose Phoenix Brewery on Upper Main for our lunch destination. This is my kind of place. A converted old lumber yard is now a very comfortable restaurant and bar. All of the old wood is indicative of the old buildings heritage and two large beer vats behind a glass partition provide the libations for the restaurant. We sat at the classic bar (pandemic protocols all in place) and were served by a very personable young woman. She was a wealth of information for sure. All of the available draft beers are house made so……for the beer drinker, this place rocks. While the alcohol selection was somewhat lacking, I was still able to get a Myers Rum but my partner was out of luck with the Bloody Mary she was craving. They do have some “craft” cocktails on the menu that looked pretty tasty but we were on a timeline so couldn’t test them out this trip. Lunch was excellent for sure. The next time we are in town, we are told we need to check out some of the best Mexican fare in area at La Palapas. Turns out it is right across the street from where we were. We did notice places catering to all of you wine drinkers, coffee addicts and “healthy” food cravers as well.
Historic Ellicott City is only a little over an hour drive from Alexandria (depending on traffic) and various routes are available as you head NNW from the Beltway. We normally try to find the less traveled backroads to our Road Trip destinations but we went the direct route both there and back. No matter which road you take, it will be worth the trip.