Monday, August 22, 2016

National Park Service centennial - Hampton Historic Site

Completed in 1790, "Hampton," just north of Baltimore, had close ties with two Howard County grand homes.  Two Dorsey sisters from "Belmont," near Elkridge, married Charles Ridgely the builder of Hampton, and his nephew/heir Gov. Charles Carnan Ridgely.  Gov. and Priscilla Ridgely's daughter Prudence married Gov. George Howard and they lived at "Waverly" in Marriotsville.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ellicotts' movable house - an 1800 mobile home

When they were building a road going west from Ellicott's Mills, the Ellicott brothers had a house built on wheels where the road workers cooked and slept.  It was "drawn from place to place" and was the "first movable building seen in Maryland."  Perhaps it was a small house or possibly apart of a Conestoga wagon or like a Gypsy caravan.  Moving wooden or even brick buildings was surprisingly common in the US, as noted lighthouse engineer Stevenson described in 1838...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

8113 Main St., to be torn down after 2016 Ellicott City flood, had connections to Elizabeth Ellicott Lea

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (1793-1858), whose cookbook Domestic Cookery was first published in 1845, had ties to the shorter of the two adjoining buildings due to be torn down. The old building sets over the Tiber River (usually more of a stream) on hand-hewed wooden beams forming a truss system (like a bridge).  Incredible. For about 200 years these buildings have been held up by wood. [HO-586] The supporting wall between the frame (wood) buildings was destroyed during the flood, making it a hazard. Lea was born in the George Ellicott home, which has also suffered during past floods.

News flash!  Go to Preservation Maryland to see how the two buildings are being stabilized. HERE

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ellicott City's flash flood of 2016

On Saturday night, July 30, over SIX inches of rain fell in TWO hours (most was during one hour) the resulting river of water was funneled between the hills encasing the historic town and onto Main Street forcing cars into buildings and down into the raging Patapsco River.  The surge of the river reached the bottom of the glass street lamps on the bridge! Note the mud.  Reports say the Patapsco River crested at 14 feet, and surged to over 27 feet. 36 hours later the jumble of cars, debris and mud have been removed from the bridge, but branches and debris shoved against the railing.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rolling Roads to roll huge tobacco barrels

Before wheat and the flour mills flourished, tobacco was grown as a cash crop in Maryland, including the Howard district of Anne Arundel County [later Howard County].  Tobacco depleted the soil and was more labor intensive than wheat, but continued to be grown in some eastern parts of the state.  A few roads have retained their original name - Rolling Road, nearby Catonsville for example.  Farmers compressed the dried tobacco leaves to thoroughly fill the hogshead to specified weight (1000 or more pounds) then those in Howard district headed for Elkridge according to Tyson (bottom).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Whipps Garden Cemetery

This gem of a cemetery and garden was bought in 1855 for $73.25 and has been revived during the last 30 years by the Friends of the Whipps Cemetery, Maryland Master Gardeners, and other local groups – even an Eagle Scout project.  Numerous signs are scattered throughout with histories and names of plants, and every season showcases different flowers and colors.  For more history go to

Monday, July 4, 2016

Biography of Benjamin Banneker

The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science by Silvio A. Bedini, revised and expanded, 1999.  This is a fascinating and enjoyable read, heavily researched, on the life and many details of the times, of this noteworthy free African-American who owned his farm, made a working wooden clock just by looking at a watch, and was able to learn complicated mathematical equations and astronomy, which would be showcased in 6 years of Almanacs; and he helped for the first couple months of the survey of Washington City.  But with all his accomplishments, many myths have appeared in books and on the web, which the author corrects. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

B & O Railroad's Oliver Viaduct across Main St., Ellicott City

The Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike went down Ellicott's Mills Main Street and the trains had to cross over it, so the Oliver Viaduct (stone 3 arch bridge) was built.  However, the flood of 1868 destroyed two of the arches. Later they were replaced with a metal span which now reads Ellicott City.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Incredibly high flood levels sign on Main Street

Floods and more floods have done various degrees of damage over the years.  Recording just the major floods, this sign on the Oliver Viaduct (part of the stone railroad bridge was destroyed by a flood) is striking.  There is a number on the railing of the horrific 1868 flood when waters reached 21.5 feet above street level.  Jonathon Ellicott's home was lost in the 1972 flood but his brother George's home survived and has since been moved uphill.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Waverly, Jacob Bromwell's wheat fan and Poe's uncle

George Howard at "Waverly" hosted a timed test of Jacob Bromwell's patented fan - it cleaned 26 1/2 bushels of wheat in 7 1/2 minutes. That year, 1819, Bromwell moved to the growing city of Cincinnati, Ohio, where he started a company which is still producing exquisite tin, copper, wire-woven and wooden old-style kitchen tools HERE

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Waverly Jumbles

Governor George and Prudence Ridgely Howard named the home and lands that his father, Col. Howard, gave them "Waverly" after the enormously popular 1814 Sir Walter Scott novel Waverley. His brother Benjamin's wife, Jane Gilmor Howard, included a recipe for the rose water flavored cookie in her charity cookbook Fifty Years in a Maryland Kitchen in 1873.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Dairy - at Waverly and Doughoregan Manor

Gov. George Howard's (1789-1846) large stone dairy was built c1822 according to an early sketch of his "Waverly" buildings and payments to a stonemason. The second story window on the front has been changed into a door, but the side windows look like the sketch. His wife Prudence Ridgely Howard (1791-1847) had been raised at "Hampton" (north of Baltimore) which operated a large dairy operation making over 5,000 pounds of butter in 1822. Howard's neighbor Charles Carroll's lovely dairy at "Doughoregan" was much smaller. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Morse's telegraph message went over the Thomas Viaduct

On May 24, 1844 Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) sent the message "What hath God wrought?" from the Supreme Court chambers in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to Baltimore's B&O train station.  Congress had appropriated money to run a line from DC to Baltimore along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks, thus going over the amazing Thomas Viaduct with its two tracks and a walkway.  More on the viaduct HERE .  Although not the first person to invent the electric telegraph, nor was it his first message, the line became famous, as did Morse and Morse Code.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cotton mill heated in 1816 by a young Robert Mills

Robert Mills, the American born architect of two Washington Monuments - Baltimore in 1815 and DC in the 1830s - designed a soap stone and brick furnace for the large (100 feet by 40 feet, three story stone) cotton mill a mile down the Patapsco River from Ellicott's Mills.  It was run by Edward Gray, father-in-law of John Pendleton Kennedy.  More on "Patapsco" HERE

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Patapsco" - the home not the river - and the 1868 flood

Edward Gray built the home and mill complex, and lived there with his two daughters and his son-in-law John Pendleton Kennedy.  Kennedy (1795-1870) was a lawyer, novelist, politician, Secretary of the Navy and kept a journal which gives fascinating accounts of his education, fighting to protect Baltimore in 1814 and his homes in Baltimore and "Patapsco" near Ellicott City.  After Edward Gray died in 1856, the Kennedys continued to live between the two homes until the flood of 1868 - described below.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Washington Irving visits his friend John Pendleton Kennedy

Novelist Washington Irving (1783-1859) who bought a cottage in 1835, and transformed it into the fanciful "Sunnyside" in Tarrytown, NY (picture below) wrote about his visits to Kennedy's "Patapsco" country home outside of Ellicott City.  The house had been built c1820 by his father-in-law Edward Gray within his textile manufacturing complex by the Patapsco River, with additions built over the years.  John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870) was a lawyer, politician, Secretary of the Navy, novelist, reformer, historian and kept a detailed journal.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oakland's outbuildings repurposed

A previous post HERE described Oakland. Next to the mansion is a stone wash house (left) which connects to the underground ice house holding 1200 bushels of ice. Nearby is the fancy carriage house.  In the farm section, now next to the man-made Wilde Lake on Hyla Point Road, is the old Oakland house, stone slave and blacksmith buildings, a sheep house, a spring house and a later-built barn.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Charles Sterrett Ridgely's name change and Oakland

Charles Ridgely Sterrett (1782-1847) legally changed his surname as requested by his mother's uncle Capt. Charles Ridgely, the builder of "Hampton" when he died in 1790.  Another heir of the childless Ridgely, Charles Carnan also added Ridgely to his name and inherited Hampton.  Built in 1811, Oakland underwent changes during its years of many owners. It is at 5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

B & O Railroad's Thomas Viaduct

This curved granite viaduct with eight arches was built in 1835.  Incredibly it is still being used... with modern heavy trains on the double tracks!  Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Jr. (1806-78), the son of the architect of the US Capitol and Baltimore's Basilica, it was 612 feet long and cost over $142,000 or the equivalent of $3.8 million.  At the time it was called Latrobe's Folly, since it was so novel detractors thought it would fall down.