In the early days of what became Howard County, Native Americans traversed the land by following deer trails, which were widened over time from footpaths to wagon trails and, eventually, to roads.
Old Frederick Road, which begins at the Patapsco River in northern Howard’s Hollofield area, started out as one of those trails, says Paulette Lutz, deputy director of the Howard County Historical Society.
Also known as Maryland Route 99, the road is the thread that weaves together visits to the five houses and a church that make up the nonprofit’s 42nd annual Holiday House Tour on Sunday, Dec. 9.
“The houses are reflective of the self-contained farms that prospered in this section of the county,” said Lutz, noting that most of them had blacksmith shops and gardens and raised livestock and grain crops.
The five houses on the 2018 fundraising tour are: Mount Pleasant Farm, a 1775 farmhouse in Woodstock that’s now the headquarters of the Howard County Conservancy; McKenzie’s Discovery, built in 1890; Mount Hebron, an 1808 home that’s also called Hebron House; Thomas Farm Tenant House, circa 1880; and Linnwood, which dates to 1865 and is also known as the Samuel F. Cobb House.
Gary Memorial United Methodist Church on Daniels Road will also be a stop on the tour, which will last from 1 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m. and will start and end at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City.
With the addition of a sixth coach bus this year, there will be 300 seats available. About half of the tickets, which can be purchased on the historical society’s website or in person at their office in the Miller Branch Library, have been sold, Lutz said.
“This event is so popular every year because it takes people to very beautiful, very old places that they drive by all the time, but can’t get inside to see,” she said.
Jean Shelton said Hebron House, a stone building owned by Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, may have derived its name from a mention of Hebron in the Old Testament of the Bible, a place in the hill country of Jerusalem.
The home was built on 900 acres by Judge Thomas B. Dorsey in 1808. He and his new bride, Milcah Goodwin, moved into it the same year, said Shelton, a church member. The congregation began meeting in Hebron House after the church was founded in 1961, she said. The home, which sits on 7.8 acres along with the church’s current building, is rented out for weddings, parties and community events.
One of the church’s founding members, Gladys Hemphill, will be on hand to answer visitors’ questions during the tour, Shelton said.
McKenzie’s Discovery, located at the end of McKenzie Road, is also known as No Less and Hannon House, said homeowner Dave Holland, who has lived there since 2014 with his wife and five children.
Holland, a technology manager for a solar company and a history buff, said Celia Holland, his grandmother, wrote a book in 1987, “Old Homes and Families of Howard County” that includes information on his home’s history.
According to a description on the website of the Maryland Historical Trust, “the building is surrounded by a well-kept log smokehouse (1830), a log pegged barn (1860), a carriage house (1890) and a three-sided stone blacksmith shop converted into a charming residence by a frame addition, which bears a date of 1897 but may be of earlier vintage.”
Holland said his family is respectful of their home’s history.
“When you live in a house like this, you try to honor what it is and what it’s trying to be,” he said, noting the house was “in pretty great shape” when he and his wife bought it, though they have since modernized the kitchen. The Holland family “will be here for the tour and happy to share stories,” he said.
Lutz said the yearly tour event “never disappoints.”
“No matter how old or how big or how small, each of these homes is so pretty on the inside,” she said. “The owners are so creative with their use of space and their holiday decorations that people just love to see what they’ve done.”