Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Baltimore divorcee for whom the king of England gave up his throne, used to slip quietly into Sykesville to visit relatives, hoping the press would not follow.
And Betsy Patterson, whose whirlwind romance with and marriage to his brother infuriated Napoleon Bonaparte, literally "escaped" from her father's summer house in Sykesville to rendezvous with the love of her life, Jerome Bonaparte.
horses that pulled the earliest railroad cars.
Thanks to the enterprise of founder James Sykes, and the proximity of that railroad line, Sykesville became an 19th-century summer retreat for Baltimoreans determined to leave the heat and stench of the city.
The Carroll County town is still a delightful retreat today. Historic Main Street, which climbs uphill from the rush of the Patapsco River and the rumble of the CSX trains that still move through town, is a compact collection of shops and restaurants in buildings that mostly date from the defining flood of 1868.
Plan your visit to Sykesville's Main Street from Wednesday to Sunday, when most of the shops are open. Here's a proposed itinerary for an ideal day:
11 a.m.: Cottage Corner Treasures
Enter Sykesville from Route 32, turning left at the historic marker for Main Street and passing over the old aluminum bridge and going to the bottom of Main Street, where you will find plenty of parking near the Visitor's Center on Baldwin Drive. Cottage Corner Treasures is just that - a tiny free-standing cottage in the corner of a parking lot where you will find unique gifts for the home and garden.
7615 Main St., 410-549-9191
11:30 a.m.: Finders Keepers Consignment
Linda Tracey's consignment shop holds lots of surprises - even for her. "Every time I come in to work, there is something new here," she said. Depression glass, botanical prints, Longaberger baskets, pottery, old-fashioned jewelry, table linens and furniture are packed tightly into this shop.
7610 Main St., 410-549-1976
Noon: Contrary Mary's
Mary Martin lives less than a mile away, and she drove by the predecessor of this shop on her way to work for a long time before she decided to make it her shop. That was seven years ago, and she has developed a loyal customer base among her neighbors, who don't want to drive 30 minutes to the nearest mall when they need a gift. "One customer came in and needed a baby gift and a housewarming gift," said Martin. "A few minutes here and she was all set."
7606 Main St., 410-549-9005, contrarymarys.com
12:30 P.M.: E.W. Beck's
If you like your sandwiches huge, your french fries crispy and your beer cold, this is your stop for lunch. Place your order but hang onto the menu long enough to read a brief history of Sykesville and of the Beck family. Save room for dessert - your waitress will bring a tray of treats from which to choose. There's also a variety of sports playing on large-screen TVs around the restaurant.
7565 Main St., 410-795-1001, ewbecks.com
1:30 p.m.: Purkey's Toy Trains
Still a retreat
Historic railroad town is worth more than a whistle-stop visit
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