Restored George Ellicott House opening to public this weekend 200-year-old home was built by son of one of Ellicott City's founders.

April 12, 1991|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Evening Sun Staff

When tank-like vehicles pulled the flood-ravaged George Ellicott House to higher ground across Frederick Road, crowds gathered in the rain to watch the job. It took most of a day.

Tomorrow and Sunday, four years after that move, the public is invited to visit the restored 200-year-old house built by a son of one of Ellicott City's founders.

Historic Ellicott City Inc., a private, non-profit group, now owns the house and is looking for a business to rent it.

Set back from the banks of the Patapsco River, on the Baltimore County side, the George Ellicott House has survived numerous floods, including ones in 1972 and 1975 that nearly destroyed it.

Since 1975, the state, private groups and individuals provided more than $1 million in loans and gifts to renovate the granite, early Federalist-style house. Private donations ranged from $5 to $100,000.

People gave because "it's all we have left of the original Ellicott Mills community," said Joette Cramm, an amateur historian in Howard County. "It's kind of a monument to the Ellicotts."

George Ellicott was a Quaker, mathematician, amateur astronomer and entrepreneur in grain mills, iron works and other enterprises. He ran the family flour mill with his brother, Jonathan, and their father, Andrew, a founder of Ellicott City.

The house faced Frederick Road until the road was moved behind the house several decades ago. That change, along with the destruction of other nearby houses by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972, left the house more vulnerable to floods.

The owners at the time, the Wilkins-Rogers flour mix company, had been planning to restore the property when the 1975 flood further damaged it.

The company "decided the gods were telling them something," said Charles L. Wagandt, chairman of the George Ellicott House Project Committee of Historic Ellicott City Inc.

Wilkins-Rogers donated land across the street and offered to give the house to Historic Ellicott City if money could be found to preserve it.

The house has a basement and three floors, with chimneys at either end and a front hall that divides symmetrical living and dining rooms. A smaller stone addition was attached around 1810, but was so deteriorated by the 1980s that it had to be carried across the street stone by stone and rebuilt.

In the course of restoration, workers discovered unusual design features such as a single 48-foot yellow pine beam, still straight and strong, running the length of the house to support the third floor.

Long before that discovery, in the early part of this century, workers installing electricity uncovered handmade nails. Hester Cooper watched them do it when she was a child living there with her family from 1909 to about 1920.

Now 83 and living in Hampstead, Cooper remembers playing with dolls on the window bench on the second-floor landing and warming herself by the Latrobe stoves that stood in the fireplaces.

Her parents moved into the house to join her grandmother and her grandfather, who was chief millwright of the milling company that owned it.

Floods were bad in Cooper's day, too. "I remember one time the water came up almost to the level of the porch," she said, "and the whole lawn was mud."

Cooper plans to attend the open house to refresh her memories.

The house will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow and from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2.

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