Monday, October 17, 2016

Tarpeian Rock

What's a tarpeian?  It was an outcropping or cliff of Capitoline Hill towards the Patapsco River in Ellicotts' Mills (now Ellicott City).  Above it was and is the home "Castle Angelo" and the county courthouse is further back on top.  It was named for the cliff off Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy.  The rock blocked the new B & O rail road route from Baltimore along the Patapsco River, so a cut of 60 feet was needed for the railroad track to pass. Etched into the remaining pillar of stone was: "completed April 1831 James Fresh."  A huge chunk of rock remained (the white bit in the image between the house and tracks) and with the Castle, became a tourist site until it was totally removed for a second track in 1859. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

John H. B. Latrobe's patented heating stove - Latrobe Stove - 1846

The Latrobe Stove was so popular that The Century Dictionary listed "latrobe" as a generic label for all similarly designed stoves. It "arranged for heating floors above by means of a hot-air flue fitted with a damper and register."  The Latrobe Stove was also called Baltimore Heater, Parlor stove or Fire-place Stove and initially made by the Latrobe Stove foundry.  JHB Latrobe was a multi-talented man - B&O railroad lawyer, inventor, helped found and led organizations such as the Maryland Historical Society, and more HERE .  He thought about the problem after hearing "a complaint made by his wife, that the stoves then used (the "Franklin" and others) occupied so much space. He said he could remedy this, and would make a stove to be placed in the fireplace."

Monday, October 3, 2016

How a codicil to Charles Carroll's will broke up a friendship and a family

John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891), son of famed architect of the US Capitol, Benjamin Latrobe left West Point when his father died in 1820 to start a more lucrative career as a lawyer.  He studied law under Baltimore's Robert Goodlow Harper (1765-1825), and became friends with his son, Charles Carroll Harper, grandson of the very wealthy Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Carroll signed his will - which fairly divided his estate between his two daughters and his son's family - a few months after his only son died in 1825, as did his son-in-law Harper. Trouble came when Carroll's other son-in-law Caton requested Latrobe, a striving young lawyer, to write the codicil a year before Carroll died at 95, which favored the Caton/McTavish side of the family, and resulted in decades of litigation before it was settled.

Monday, September 26, 2016

John H. B. Latrobe's "Fairy Knowe"

Overlooking his brother Benjamin Latrobe Jr.'s magnificent Thomas Viaduct (more on the B & O Railroad stone bridge HERE), and seen by the RR passengers, John H. B. Latrobe had a country house "Fairy Knowe" designed by Robert Carey Long Jr. who also designed Patapsco Institute and Mt. Ida.  Latrobe, son of the architect of the US Capitol, owned and designed a cottage, "Maryland Row", at White Sulpher Springs and was the lawyer for the B & O Railroad.  Below is a floor plan of #1 and Latrobe's description of #2 designed with John Niernsee...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Charles Carroll of Carrollton's 90th & 91st birthdays

Born on September 19, 1737 Charles Carroll would live 95 years, dying in November of 1832.  To celebrate his birthday, his 44 relatives and friends feasted on "glorious saddles of venison" (a yearly "best buck" from Harewood estate), mutton, plum puddings, kickshaws, and "substantials" with champagne and punch. The area, now Howard County, was sometimes named after its largest town, Elkridge, once an active port.  The men on their fox hunters/horses were well known riders.  Gold and silver medals were given to his children and grandchildren the previous year on his 90th birthday.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Oella - the Maryland mill town and the Incas of Peru

The Union Manufacturing Company started buying land in 1808 for cotton mills, and in 1811 patented their holdings as Oella "in commemoration of the first woman who applied herself to the spinning of Cotton on the Continent of America."  Mama Oella (Ocllo and other spellings) and her husband/brother Manco Capac were the legendary founders of the Inca empire.  They were included in the then-popular epic poem by Joel Barlow on Columbus published in 1787 and expanded as The Columbiad in 1807.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Patterson Viaduct

Built in 1829 at Ilchester, the viaduct was destroyed in the flood of 1868.  A metal bridge was put on the remaining parts of the bridge, and now there is a walking bridge.  The current B&O bridge leads to a tunnel cut through the hill... which the original went around.  Interesting description of "rustic."  Named for wealthy business man William Patterson (1752-1835) a founder of the B & O; one of his many children, 'Betsy' married Napoleon's brother.

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 Dorsey 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 a part 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.