The wall was probably built in the 1830s, said Ed Lilley, president of the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, as were many of the buildings in that area. Dohony Hall — a three-story granite structure that serves as a church meeting hall — went up around that time, originally as a location of the Patapsco National Bank, Lilley said.

The wall that held for roughly 170 years was evidently brought down by the pressure of water building up behind it, said Steimetz, although the exact cause of the collapse has never been determined. There was no indication the collapse had anything to do with the earthquake centered in Virginia that hit the East Coast about two weeks before Tropical Storm Lee brought heavy rain and floods.

"All that could be determined was water pressure behind the wall" caused the collapse, said Steimetz.

He said once the plan is approved by Historic District Commission, it will have to be brought again to the Board of Public Works, this time sitting as the Scenic Roads Commission. With that hurdle leaped, the project can then be designed.

If all goes well, Steimetz said the project could be completed by the fall, but he acknowledged that estimate could be too optimistic. The work is expected to cost $350,000 to $400,000, but up to 70 percent of that sum could be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The result, Papania said, will be worth the wait.

"It's going to be a very attractive wall," he said. "We're very confident and comfortable with it now."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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