Monday, June 12, 2017

Daily summer commute from Ellicott City to Baltimore in 1889-90

Summer homes outside of Baltimore gave respite from the "inferno in Summer" but the ride on the B & O railroad train was "regarded as heroic" leaving them "hot, dusty and worn-out" revived by the mint juleps on the front porch.  H. L. Mencken (1880-1856) spent two summers at "Vineyard" on the hill by the Patapsco Institute.

"In the days I write of they [summer houses] were vastly more remote; in fact, they were so remote that the women and children in them, having one undergone the ordeal of being moved out, stayed put for the rest of the Summer.  The head of each house, or course, had to come to town every day to look after his business, for it was not usual, at that time, for males with any sense of responsibility to take holidays, but no one ever mistook this round trip for a pleasure jaunt; on the contrary, it was regarded as heroic, and mentioned with praise.

The only feasible way to get to our first Summer retreat in Howard county [sic], Maryland, was by Baltimore & Ohio train to the ancient village of Ellicott City, and then up a steep zigzag road in the village hack.  My father and my uncle Henry, whose family shared the house with us, made the round trip every day, but its second half always left them hot, dusty and worn-out, and I doubt that they could have endured it if the ground rules had not allowed them a couple of mint juleps [with Maryland rye] when they finally reached the front porch.

The luxurious day-coaches that now distinguish the Baltimore & Ohio were unheard of in those primitive days.  The Main Line local to Ellicott City was made up of creaky wooden cars that had all seen heroic service in the Civil War, and in the fifteen-mile run (it took nearly an hour) they shipped enough cinders to set all their passengers to strangling.

Mencken, H. L. Happy Days: 1880-1892.  NY: Knopf: 1836, 1837, 1939, 1940; Johns Hopkins U: 2006.

©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD

No comments:

Post a Comment