Historic, innovative and resilient; we love our storied past and our promising bright future


The Ellicott brothers, John, Andrew and Joseph, hailing from Bucks County Pennsylvania, purchased land adjacent to the Patapsco River with the intent to build and run grain mills. They convinced local farmers to switch their crops from tobacco to grain. Ellicott’s Mills would become one of the largest milling and manufacturing towns in the East, and considered by some as the home of the Industrial Revolution.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

The town with a river and seven hills grew and thrived. Main Street became part of the National Road in the early 1800’s. By the mid 1900’s the bustling town offered all the modern conveniences – grocery, hardware and department stores, a pharmacy, gas station, banks, restaurants and a funeral home.

In 2021, the last of the many mills that called the Patapsco Valley home, closed for good. Like much of Ellicott City, the old flour mill will shift purposes to meet the aspirations of the present day. The town has been put to the test with devastating fires that took out mills in the 1800’s and multiple Main Street buildings as recently as 1998. Flood waters have devastated the town also since the 1800’s, with the most infamous being two ‘1000 year events’ in 2016 and 2018. 

250 years since the Ellicotts’ dream, from early horse drawn carriages to today’s electric cars, the town continues to resiliently reinvent itself.  Today Old Ellicott City is the home to 80+ one-of-a-kind small businesses. Thanks to the diverse, determined, creative community spirit that is at its foundation, OEC is bound to remain in the history books as a delight to visit and a treasure to be a part of.



Special thanks to the folks at EC250 for creating this timeline inspired by Ellicott City’s 250th birthday, and allowing us to share it with you

The timeline is a work in progress as we continue the quest for stories about OEC’s rich history.  Your verified additions are welcome!

One of the first African American intellectuals, is born on the Banneky farm situated on a hillside of the Patapsco River near what is now Oella. A mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs, inventor, writer, and freeman he would later become friends with George Ellicott.
Joseph, Andrew and John arrive from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to establish Mills along the Patapsco River. At first called “The Hollow” then the town of Ellicott Mills is founded.
From Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence for Maryland resides at Doughoregan Manor. He works with the Ellicott Brothers to convert the main crop of Howard County from tobacco to wheat.
One of Ellicott City’s oldest landmark, an original settler’s hut, is built. The structure would later become a meeting place for the organizers of what would become the Saint Luke A.M.E. Church. It would later be known as the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin.
Accompanies Major Andrew Ellicott to the banks of the Potomac River to assist in the survey of the new federal city that would become the nation’s capital. In his free time Banneker begins to write the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris. The almanac included information on medicines and medical treatment, and listed tides, astronomical information, and eclipses calculated by Banneker himself. He published the journal annually from 1791 to 1802.
Is born at the home of her parents, George and Elizabeth Ellicott, at Ellicott Mills. Martha would later write 2 significant books, The Settlement of Ellicott’s Mills and A Sketch of the Life of Benjamin Banneker. Both continue to provide valuable insights into her Quaker ancestors concerns for education, eldering and ministry, African Americans, and Native Americans.
Donates four acres for a Quaker meeting house and a cemetery to accommodate people of their own faith, and others who were desirous of assembling in congregated worship
Form the Baltimore and Frederick Turnpike Company to build a toll road from Doughoregan Manor to Ellicott Mills to expedite the processing of wheat products. The idea for a National Road took shape while Thomas Jefferson was President (1801-1809).
A chief of the Miami nation and one of the most famous Native American military leaders, spends time in Ellicott City as the guest of George Ellicott during Christmas Week. George’s daughter, Martha Ellicott Tyson recalls meeting Little Turtle when she was 12 in a book she later wrote.
The first railroad terminus built in America is located in Ellicott Mills.
Initiates the use of steam power at the B&O Station in Ellicott Mills and America’s Railroad Age begins.
On January 1, 1837, the Patapsco Female Institute opens its doors for female students. This school is not just a “finishing school” but a full college including courses on chemistry, biology, languages and sociology.
On Court Avenue is built. Capitoline Hill is nicknamed Mount Misery due to hauling the granite stones up the hill.
On July 4, 1851, the Howard District of Anne Arundel County becomes “Howard County” with Ellicott Mills designated as the County Seat because of the grand Courthouse. It is named for Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard and Maryland’s fifth Governor.
Created in town at the start of the Civil War
Ellicott City is the scene of a Civil War episode in which the Wynan’s Steam Gun is captured in Ellicott Mills by General Benjamin Butler and Federal Troops.
Defeated Federal troops retreat through Ellicott Mills from the Battle of Monocacy. After retirement, Lew Wallace wrote “Ben Hur.”
Ellicott Mills is granted a city charter and the name changed to Ellicott City. George Ellicott, Jr., grandson of founder Andrew Ellicott was selected as the first Mayor.
In the history of Howard County happened in October 1868 when 21.5 feet of water flooded Main Street and washed away the original buildings on the east side of the Patapsco River.
Opens to fulfill an 1879 Maryland State law requiring counties to provide educational facilities for African American children. The one-room primitive structure operated until 1953 without running water, electricity, or central heating. Howard County Government purchased the building in 1995 and restored it to serveas a genealogical resource center and a museum to highlight the county’s African American history.
A group of volunteers construct 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.
The Patapsco Female Institute is closed. The building is purchased by Mrs. A. Marshall Elliott (Lily Tyson) for $8500, remodeled and changed to the Bern Alnwick Hotel.
With the completion of the trolley bridge over the Patapsco River, the trolley system ran to Ellicott City. The Ellicott City Trolley Line ran from the terminus at Fels Lane to Catonsville Junction.
Ellicott City’s boundaries are changed to no longer include the Baltimore County side of the Patapsco River.
Marries Helen Woodford at St. Paul’s Church
The Doughnut Corporation of America moves to Ellicott City from New York to become one of the areas primary employers.
Joining other county towns that chose county government rule.
Main Street was known as Route 40 until the wider highway was built north of town.
Opens with 386 seats.
Murals depicting the town’s heritage are installed in U.S. Post Office on Main Street as part of the nation’s “New Deal” effort.
During the World War II years, Ellicott City saw many changes. Saloons seemed to occupy half of Main Street buildings. Outsiders moved into town to work at the mills and military men from Fort Meade visited for “R&R” (rest and relaxation).
Until the 1950s, Ellicott City was a bustling town as the County Seat and as a market town. Shopping centers were few until then. Merchants such as grocery stores, department stores, pharmacies, funeral homes, restaurants and hardware stores stayed open until the last customer was done shopping.
Is dismantled in Ellicott City due to the congestion on Main Street with the increase of automobiles.
Portions of a 1958 American drama starring Kim Stanley, Lloyd Bridges and Patty Duke are filmed in Ellicott City with Main Street serving as the childhood home of the main character. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
With the growth in population in Howard County and the construction of local shopping centers, Ellicott City established a rebirth with antique shops, restaurants and craft stores.
Hurricane Agnes hit Ellicott City in 1972 as the second worst flood in the County’s history. Main Street was flooded with 14 feet of water. Governor Spiro T. Agnew visited Main Street and declared it a disaster area.
A renaissance occurred in Ellicott City after the Hurricane Agnes flood by celebrating the Bicentennial of the town. There was a pageant, parade and other events to renew the town. Reenactors depicted the Ellicotts, Benjamin Banneker, and Charles Carroll as well as townspeople dressed in colonial era clothes. Ellicott City became known as a “boutique town.”
Completes transition of milling operations from Washington, DC to Ellicott City Maryland. The mill continues in operation today on the site of the original Ellicott’s grist mill. It is the last commercial grist mill operating in the state of Maryland!
The Ellicott City Historic District is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.