History is alive this year in Ellicott City, Maryland as it celebrates its Sestercentennial anniversary! It was 250 years ago that the Ellicotts, a Quaker family from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, came to the Patapsco River Valley to harness the river’s power and establish a center for industry and commerce.

The town is noted for its old-world charm, eclectic assortment of shops, and variety of wonderful restaurants that draw visitors to its walkable Main Street. It is a place where you trod in the footsteps of early mill workers, while browsing galleries, exploring boutiques, and choosing from an array of dining options. Within a few short blocks you can tour the oldest railroad terminus in America, learn about the early education of the town’s Black community in a restored “colored” school, and sample a one-of-a-kind ice cream treat in a Mason jar that promises to be unlike any other!

Ellicott City’s Sestercentennial is the perfect time to learn more about the family that started it all and the mill town that grew to become an important chapter in the history of our nation. Three exhibits offer visitors a great opportunity to dive deeper into this notable story of one river, three brothers and 250 years of innovation!

The ELLICOTT LEGACY exhibit at the Museum of Howard County History takes a look into the lives of Ellicott City’s founding family through the lens of its extensive Ellicott family artifact collection. The MILL TOWN TO CITY exhibit at the Howard County Welcome Center tells the story of the town as it transforms from the Ellicotts’ settlement to a center of commerce. And the new, interactive ELLICOTT MILLS CHILDREN’S MUSEUM focuses on the history and culture of those who lived and worked in the 19th century mill town.

History and art come together in two nearby gallery exhibitions in celebration of the 250th anniversary. “ARTifacts” at the Howard County Center for the Arts explores the creative interpretation by various artists of individually selected historic artifacts from Howard County Historical Society’s Ellicott family collection. The artifacts are among those featured in the “Ellicott Legacy” exhibit now on display. A solo exhibition by artist Wiley Purkey opens on Sept. 15 at the Columbia Art Center. Mr. Purkey has been painting in the town’s Historic District for over fifty years. In his “A BRUSH WITH HISTORY” series, Purkey artfully reminisces on both his personal experiences and historic elements of the town in fifty paintings that take viewers on a nostalgic journey through its streets.

Over the years, history marched along the town’s Main Street, one of the oldest roads in Maryland. It was built to connect the town to the port of Baltimore to the east and to the farms west of town. The road would eventually continue west to connect with the National Road in Cumberland, Maryland. As the town’s yearlong Sestercentennial celebration draws to a close a new, original musical inspired by travelers and events along this route is set to hit the stage.

“ON NATIONAL ROAD — the EC250 Musical” chronicles historic milestones during the last 250 years in Ellicott City and Howard County. Set to premiere in December, this entertaining, educational, family-oriented musical features songs in a variety of musical genres. Its songs carry the audience through time with stories of historic figures and events. Performances will be held at Howard County Community College’s Horowitz Visual & Performing Arts Center. Tickets go on sale October 1.

From museums to a musical, the occasion of Ellicott City’s 250 years of resilience and perseverance certainly calls for a special Sestercentennial visit — after all, it’s not every day a town turns 250!

Learn more at EC250.com and find details for your trip at visithowardcounty.com.

Victoria Goodman’s roots run deep in Ellicott City’s Patapsco Valley. She has lived and worked in proximity to the town her entire life and enjoys sharing stories of its charm and historic significance whenever possible. She and fellow EC250, Inc. Board Members have worked diligently over the past four years to deliver a yearlong series of celebratory and educational events to mark this year’s 250th anniversary of Ellicott City’s founding in 1772. 

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