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On the Road with Contributing Editor Gina Smith: Ellicott City, MD

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Ellicott City, MD

    Walking along the hilly brick streets of Ellicott City, Maryland, taking in the myriad antiques and  gift shops, the old grist mill, the railroad bridge with water lines marked by floods of a hundred or more years ago, one would hardly believe the nation’s capital is a mere twenty minutes away.

    Nestled in a spot that on the surface time appears to have forgotten, Ellicott City is a delightful historical visit with all the conveniences one would expect to find in a Washington, D.C., bedroom community.

    Between the steep main street and the overhead wires and overhead railroad trestle, you might conjure up visions of  San Francisco but the culinary delights more closely resemble Paris. And you’ll be in need of refreshments as it is most likely an all-day walk down one side of  Main Street and up the other if you plan to take in all the shops.

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      No matter what you--or the family--wants to see, you can find it in this seemingly little town. The historic section contains countless antiques shops all in a row, including more than one large antique mall. There are shops specializing in antique clocks and watches, furniture, jewelry, a doll hospital, a vintage-looking grocery, complete with produce in wire bins outside, old books and more. There are more than a dozen antiques shops and malls listed in the town visitor’s guide, which you can pick up for free or visit

    I made time to visit Taylor’s Antique Mall, 8197 Main; Joan Eve at 8018 Main, Caplan’s at 8125 Main, Maxine’s, 8116 Main and went nuts over the Alice in Wonderland collectibles and several floors of goodies crammed to the rafters at Forget-Me-Not-Factory, 8044 Main.

    But where I really fell in love with Ellicott City was at The Vintage Shoppes, now at 8198 Main and owned by Kelli Laine Myers.

    I just couldn’t leave without talking with this proprietress with the most-est (stuff ) I had ever seen. How did she know I had a pink typewriter? Needless to say, we hit it off over our love of all things vintage or pink or both, and before long we were exchanging business cards, email address and making plans: she’d help me get familiar with my new neck of the woods and take on some of my altered art and jewelry to sell, and I’d help her get a blog started and help publicize her new location.

    As Kelli explains, “For years I dreamed of opening my own vintage-inspired store that would be filled with all the things I’d picked up over the years. So I talked and talked and talked about it, until one day my husband said, ‘If you don't get rid of this stuff in our basement, I'm out of here!’ He wouldn't leave me, but he DID want the stuff out. After all...How can he do our laundry if he can't even get to the laundry room?!” Gotta love a vintage gal who thinks like that!

    She continues, “So that day I headed down to Ellicott City to see what I could find, and there in the window  was a for-rent sign. After that it was a matter of days until my dream was to come true. I love the search for great, neat, old treasures (others call it trash) that I can sell as is with its beautiful chipped paint, or something that someone else would have thrown away. But to me it's a brand new project that will just take a little love to see its potential.”

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    As with many stores in the historic section of  Ellicott City, The Vintage Shoppes are typically open Wednesday through Sunday, so it’s often best to call ahead if planning a trip from out of town. Watch for special holiday hours and open houses through the rest of 2009.

    Besides antiques and vintage, there are shops for chocolates, wine, house wares, retro clothing, children’s clothing, art supplies, pet gifts, country crafts, figurines, musical gifts, toys, and more. For the art lover, there are countless galleries and shops, including Original Souls, ZeBop, Art & Artisan, Discoveries, f64, Gallery 44, Oriental Art, Salient Group, Southwest Connection, Irish Wonders and Still Life Gallery. Add to this framing and matting shops (at least three), and the Howard County Center for the Arts, and you can get your culture however you like it.

    For more historical flavor, which dad and the kids are sure to appreciate (or at least enjoy), there’s The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum and Gift Shop on Maryland Avenue. The museum itself includes the station/main depot from 1830--the oldest surviving station in America--along with an 1855 freight house and 1927 caboose. This was the original end of the of first 13 miles of track laid west from Baltimore City.  The museum also includes a 40-foot HO-gauge model train exhibit. The annual Holiday Festival of Trains runs Nov. 27 through January 2010. The museum is also open Wed-Sun.

    In 1830 the B&O Railroad tested its first steam engine along this stretch and was rumored to have been outrun by a horse-drawn carriage on the return trip when a malfunction halted the Tom Thumb steam engine.

    Other history abounds with the Thomas Isaac Log  Cabin, c. 1780, the town’s oldest known building, which has been  moved from Merryman Street and restored by the city. It is open weekends through December in the former mill town on the Patapsco River. Milling played a large role in the development of Ellicott City, first named Ellicott’s Mills, after the Pennsylvania Quaker brothers who founded the mill there in 1772. It was changed to its present name in 1867. The Wilkens-Rogers Co., makes Washington-brand flour, cornmeal, cake and dessert mixes on the original site of the Ellicott brothers’ mill at the bottom of Main street along the river.

    It is here you can also see the marks of water depth from the historic floods of 1868 through 1972 (Hurricane Agnes) and beyond.. Read and hear tales of famous past residents, including Annie Oakley, Charles Carroll (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) whose relatives still live on the Carroll property; Benjamin Banneker, a famous African American scientist; Thomas Watkins Ligon, a former governor of Maryland; Dr. Mordecai Sykes, a dentist and mayor in the late 1800s; and Babe Ruth, married in EC in 1914.

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The Little French Market Café

Another historic lane off of Main Street is Tongue Row, a group of closely-spaced granite houses, so name for the widowed proprietress Ann Tongue or Tonge who rented houses to mill workers. The houses are now shops and boutiques, including La Boutique de Mon Amie and The Little French Market Café.

    And speaking of food, there is no shortage of that either, from the aforementioned sweets and bakeries to Mamma Lucia’s Italian home cooking, Clef Notes Music Café, the award-winning microbrewery Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, Diamondback Tavern, La Palapa Grill and Cantina, Judge’s Bench Pub, Johnny’s Bistro, Jordan’s Steakhouse, Cacao Lane, Bean Hollow Café, Dimitri’s Greek-Italian-German-American Grille and there’s also a wine café, a fusion bar and restaurant, a vegetarian café and The Trolley Stop, as well as some of the usual chain fare in the “modern” part of Ellicott City, where you’ll find Pizzeria Uno, Outback, CiCi’s, Einstein’s, and more along with Kohl’s, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot and other familiar names.

    Besides Centennial Park which offers paddle boating, fishing, picnicking, walking and biking, there’s also The Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, a Greek revival building formerly a girls school in the 1800s at the highest point in Ellicott City, in ruins now except for its Doric columns; the Mt. Ida Visitors Center, a realistic 19th century home open for tours; the Firehouse Museum at Main and Church streets, the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum; The Ellicott City Colored School, a one-room restored former segregated school and Clark’s Elioak Farm, a 540-acre working farm and petting zoo, open Tuesdays through Sundays, as well as Mondays in October.

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    Whether you’re planning a long weekend (take advantage of the upcoming Columbus Day and Veterans’ Day holidays but check ahead for closings), or a week-long vacation near the nation’s capital and The Capitol, Ellicott City offers a peek--or a long look-- back in time without getting too far from the comforts of modern civilization.

    Clearly, one could visit Ellicott City just for the vintage flavor, but you could easily add a little history, culture, recreation and dining to the menu and satisfy all family members’ travel and exploration appetites, big or small. Just drop me at The Vintage Shoppes. I’ll still be there when you’re through.


Featurebutton_06 - Contributing Editor Gina Smith aka Lilly*s of London*ish, started making jewelry about six years ago and has since tied this in with a love of vintage finds, Blythe, crochet and altered art in her etsy shop. Growing up in an antiquing family gives her a background and appreciation for all things vintage, especially dinnerware, jewelry and Americana advertising prints and products

{All contributed content Gina Smith © Lilly*s of London*ish, Vintage Indie)





Wow! How cool to see Ellicott City featured! I used to live there and I loved it!

Pearl Johnson

Thank you so much for the story on Ellicott City. I love shopping there. Especially for the antiques and vintage things. Also, there is another place in downtown Ellicott City that is great for vintage stuff. I hope you didn't miss it. Vintage Girls are at 8086 Main and have a huge store with multiple floors of vintage stuff as well as new things. I remember the great furniture and all their kitchen aprons and gloves and really neat signs. I think they just changed their name, so that may have been why you didn't put them in your article. Either way, if you get back down there, be sure to check them out. You'll be glad you did. Have fun shopping...Just don't touch my stuff! ;)

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