Relive the history of Ellicott City Six-week course charts its growth ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

January 11, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Howard County residents can relive the history of Ellicott City this winter in a six-week course taught by local historian and author Joetta Cramm.

Using slides, photographs, maps and sketches, Ms. Cramm charts the growth of Ellicott City from its beginnings as an 18th century mill town to its rebirth as an antiques center.

"I start from the 1770s and work up to the present," said Ms. Cramm, who has taught the course for two years.

Ms. Cramm begins the course by describing the Ellicott brothers, who settled along the banks of the Patapsco River in 1771 and began milling wheat and other grains at a mill on the east side of the river in Baltimore County -- a fact that surprises many of her students.

"They discover that Ellicotts Mills originated in Baltimore County and not Howard County," Ms. Cramm said.

During the Civil War, as many as 10 to 12 mills dominated the Patapsco River, but they gradually disappeared as machinery replaced factory workers.

"The mills are still there but are not the center of attention," she said.

Today, the Wilkens Rogers Co. operates a mill where the original Ellicott mills once stood. The company produces Washington-brand baking mixes and other products.

By 1900, a trolley carried passengers up and down Main Street to shops that provided goods for day-to-day living.

The Ellicott City Trolley Line, which ran from Fels Lane to Catonsville, was discontinued during the 1950s.

As autos and better roads were developed, shoppers largely abandoned Ellicott City for the suburbs of Baltimore County.

"We didn't have real big shopping centers until The Mall in Columbia opened," Ms. Cramm said. Traffic was also diverted from Ellicott City when U.S. 40 was built north of the town during the 1940s.

Ellicott City underwent radical changes as World War II brought soldiers and newcomers from the South who worked in the remaining mills. Saloons and taverns soon appeared.

"It wasn't the kind of little Ellicott City people remembered," Ms. Cramm said. "It became kind of rowdy."

Starting in the 1960s, the town became known for its antiques and crafts, reaching its peak during the 1980s, Ms. Cramm said.

In fact, the town has never looked better.

"The buildings are in good shape and there are real quality stores," she said.

Fires and floods also took their toll on the town, gradually changing its facade. But people always returned to their beloved Ellicott City.

"There's such strong attachment," Ms. Cramm said. "People recognize the uniqueness of the town."

One of those people is Carol Lejda of Columbia, who took Ms. Cramm's course last winter.

"I've found Ellicott City interesting to go to," Ms. Lejda said. "It seemed to be the seat where activity started."

Ms. Lejda, who has lived in Howard County for eight years, said she learned a lot about Ellicott City during the course.

"There were lots of surprises along the way," Ms. Lejda said. "The Ellicotts and the Bannekers were the most interesting to me because they were working on developing their lives and becoming pillars of society."

Starting at noon Feb. 2, the class will meet each week at P.J.'s Family Pub in Ellicott City. A two-hour walking tour will be arranged. The course costs $40.

For more information, call Howard Community College's Office of Continuing Education at 992-4823.

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