Getting to Ellicott City from downtown Baltimore is an easy twenty minute highway drive, heading westward. A day trip to this historic town provides a noticeable change of pace and stark shift in scenery. You know you've arrived when you've hit the hilly and narrow Main Street. Residents that live on and near Main Street are quick to point out that "if it's not downtown Ellicott City (where Main Street is located), it ain't really Ellicott City." Backing up the town's pride, it was voted as one of the best places to live in 2010 by a CNN poll.
Old bridge — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Take a walk along Main Street and look past the polished storefronts to the top of the buildings that house them and even beyond those structures to old homes in the back – you'll understand why Ellicott City has been called one of "the most haunted small towns on the East Coast." There's something quietly eery, yet beautiful about the town – fires, floods and other tragedies have undoubtedly left their silent marks.
One of many old Main St. structures — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
A day on Main Street alone can be filled with exploring the dozens of boutiques, restaurants and shops that line the road. A wine shop at the top of the hill, where the shopping comes to a brief halt, is filled with spirits of all kinds – both the ones you drink and the ones that pay you a visit. The owner is more than happy to give you the history of the building (which used to be a fire station), recount his experience with the shop's resident ghost and point you to the guide for Ellicott City's ghost tour. If you're still inclined to purchase something after several moments of ghost stories, the shop has a collection of more than 500 wines and several shelves of craft beer.
As you make your way down the hill, you'll find mom and pop shops ranging in wares from rugs to antiques to toys. In addition, there are several eateries including Italian, French, American, a brewing company and even a tea room. The first terminus of the B & O Railroad and America's oldest surviving railroad station run above lower Main Street overlooking the town. The old Ellicott City Firehouse, where fire fighters once ran bucket brigades, sits in the middle of Main Street and houses its own museum.
Replica of Benjamin Bannekar's home — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Many of the older small homes that you'll see around the historic part of town were once the residences of mill workers. One famous resident, whose home you can explore while on your way out of Ellicott City, is the home of Benjamin Bannekar. A replica of his family's cottage sits behind the Bannekar museum, just outside the town.