Historic George Ellicott House Reopens As Office Space

April 17, 1991|By Patrick L. Hickerson | Patrick L. Hickerson,Staff writer

After surviving for the better part of 201 years along the banks of the tempestuous Patapsco River, the restored George Ellicott House must face another daunting challenge: finding a tenant.

The historicbuilding reopened last weekend, 16 years after it was ravaged by Hurricane Eloise, and 12 years after it was moved across Frederick Road and out of a flood plain.

Today the building, owned by Historic Ellicott City Inc., is completely renovated and is being offered as office space.

Despite a rain-drenched weekend, approximately 500 visitors attended Historic Ellicott City's grand opening of the 4,000 square feet of vacant officespace that in the past was home to an amateur astronomer, friend of scientist Benjamin Banneker and son of Andrew Ellicott, Ellicott City's founder.

County historian Joetta Cramm in her book "Historic Ellicott City: A Walking Tour," writes that the George Ellicott House is "the sole remaining structure from the early Ellicott Mills 18th-century community."

For 150 years the house faced a Frederick Road that was closer to the Patapsco's banks, but during the 1940s, the road was rerouted behind the house.

Both the house and land where it now stands were donated to the current owners by the Wilkins-Rogers flour factory, the last surviving mill in the once-industrialized Patapsco Valley.

Location is one reason that the George Ellicott Househas weathered for so long by the flood-prone Patapsco River.

George Ellicott's older brother, Jonathan, had a house situated just north of his brother's, ensuring that his house would take the brunt of flood waters.

As if validating the dynamic, Jonathan's house was destroyed in 1972 by Hurricane Agnes, and George's house was severely damaged in 1975 by Hurricane Eloise, which ripped and exposed the southeast corner of the house.

The house is divided into two parts, with the original half facing Frederick Road and the "mother-in-law" section in the rear.

The latter section is a modern reproduction of a wing that was too badly damaged by floods to make the trip across the street. Stonework from the damaged portion was cannibalized for the reproduction. The kitchen portion of the original house, which alsosat behind the main building, will not be reproduced.

Inside the house is a blend of old and new. The original wood floor on the second level remains, boasting a new coat of stain.

But modern objects such as sprinkler systems, track lighting and a spiral staircase in the addition bring the visitor back into the 20th century.

One may ask why an edifice with so much history is being used as office spaceand not as a museum or bed and breakfast.

Herb Johl, former president of Historical Ellicott City said that the decision was made so that his organization can pay back development loans from the state and Baltimore County.

"If we didn't have to worry about paying back the $600,000, we could do it," he said.

Johl said his organizationis looking for tenants, preferably professional tenants.

"It would be very nice for architects, legal, maybe real estate. I don't know. We would like one tenant, but we'll take two or three."

One modern addition that is distinctly noticeable to those who have seen the house before and after renovation is the pale white mortar used between the Patapsco granite stones.

But Johl says the mortar will darken with age.

He sees the opening of the George Howard House as thebeginning of a new cooperation between Baltimore and Howard counties.

He cites the plans for a parking lot in Oella for Ellicott City patrons as further evidence. To him, this is a return to the past when the town of Ellicott City was composed of land in Baltimore County too.

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