George Ellicott House ready for new tenant Open house to show off historic building planned

April 07, 1991|By Audrey Haar

A survivor of time, floods and a risky move to higher ground, the historic George Ellicott House, built in 1789, has been nursed through a restoration that cost more than $1 million.

Historic Ellicott City Inc., the non-profit organization that owns the house, is looking for an office or commercial tenant to rent the house, at 24 Frederick Road in Ellicott City. There is about 4,000 square feet of usable space, with three rooms on the third floor that can be used for storage.

With restoration completed, the organization is holding an open house for the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and next Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. Admission is $2.

Built in 1789, the George Ellicott House is a Federal-style stone house that was ravaged by floods in 1972 and 1975. Storm damage in 1975 left a gaping hole up to the roof in the southwest corner of the house.

Originally, the house faced Frederick Road until the road was relocated behind the house several decades ago. Before 1972, there were houses north of the Ellicott house. When those houses were demolished, the Ellicott house was left more vulnerable to the elements. To remove the threat of flood damage, the house was relocated across the street to higher ground in 1987, with the house again facing Frederick Road.

Before the 1975 flood occurred, the house and land was owned '' by the Wilkins-Rogers Co. which had planned to preserve the house until the devastating flood. The company donated the site on higher ground across the street, and offered to give the house and land to a preservation group if funds could be raised to move the house.

Renovation efforts began in 1975, "When I was a young, naive person," laughed Charles Wagandt, chairman of the George Ellicott House Project Committee of Historic Ellicott City Inc.

Mr. Wagandt said he did not want to see the house torn down and started the drive to raise money for a study to see if the house could be moved out of the flood plain.

Once the house was successfully moved in 1987, the local preservationists then set about rebuilding parts of the house. A portion of the first floor was missing and much of the first-floor walls and plaster were washed away by the flood.

At the new site across the street, workers for the contractor, Azola Commercial Construction Co., unearthed a stone wall on what was once the site of the Continental Milling Co. Originally, the wall was probably a retaining wall for the old mill.

The house is designed in an Early Federal style that is distinguished by end chimneys and a symmetrical two-story front. The style was popular with German settlers in the Pennsylvania valley area, said Jeffrey A. Lees, project architect.

Referring to the condition of the house, Mr. Lees said, "It was in bad shape. It doesn't get much worse."

Notable house features include heart pine floors that were installed on the first floor, an unusual support design for the first floor that can be viewed from the basement, and a stairway that is protected against any design alterations by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Mr. Lees said the unconventional first-floor support system may have been devised because of a shortage of lumber at the time of construction.

While the first-floor stair railing had to be refabricated, all of the upper stair steps were original to the house, and the original doors on the on the second and third floors were preserved. Supporting the third floor of the house is a single pine beam that spans the length of the house, a typical construction method of the period according to Mr. Lees. Mr. Lees said it was surprising that the beam sagged only a small amount over the years.

Attached to the main house is a stone addition that was probably done around 1810. When the main house was moved, the addition was dismantled and reassembled on the new site. A distinctive feature of the addition are arches over the windows called boussoirs, a series of stone pieces that are put together to create a flat arch.

The house was built by George Ellicott, a Quaker who ran a flour mill with his brother Jonathan for their father Andrew, one of the founders of Ellicott City.

George Ellicott was an accomplished surveyor who laid out wagon roads to Baltimore and Frederick.

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