Restoration efforts following last year's devastating Ellicott City flood continue to take new shape, now in the form of a grant program from a partnership between Preservation Maryland and Historic Ellicott City Inc.
The grants, totaling $50,000, were awarded last month to several groups located in the historic district, and are intended to fund repairs and restoration work on historic buildings, as well as outreach efforts to advance the work of the organization. Money for the grants was provided in large part from funds raised from Historic Ellicott City's annual decorator show house.
Historic Ellicott City President Joan Becker said the group is hoping to turn the grant program into an annual effort, with money for the next round of grants again raised from this year's show house, which opens on Sunday and will run through Oct. 22.
"After last year's show house we wanted to do something that would not just address the recovery for Ellicott City as a result of the flood, but would be an ongoing thing," Becker said.
Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding said the two groups looked to award the grant money to projects in which the funds would have immediate, tangible impacts. Winners included Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Howard County Historical Society, Ellicott City Historic District Partnership, Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, Howard County Historic Preservation Commission and St. Luke's A.M.E. Church, which will use its money for exterior restorations on the historic Main Street church.
"We were looking for projects that could have an impact on bringing more people back to Ellicott City," Redding said. "We know there's been a challenge since the flood in a variety of different ways, and we think that Ellicott City's history and culture is one of the best draws. Anything to revitalize that aspect of Ellicott City is something we wanted to fund."
Redding said the program received more applicants than they were ultimately able to fund, so he is glad to see that it will be turned into an annual effort.
This will be the decorator show house event's 31st year, Becker said, and will feature the work of 17 designers in 26 spaces at the White Hall mansion in Ellicott City. In addition to the grant program, proceeds from the show house will go toward the restoration of Carrollton Hall, located on the grounds of the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City.
The three top grant awardees — Howard County Historical Society, Howard County Historic Preservation Commission and Patapsco Heritage Greenway — each received $10,000. Patapsco Heritage Greenway's money will be put toward restoration of the facade of the organization's Old Columbia Pike building, particularly the aging door and windows, Executive Director Mary Catherine Cochran said.
Cochran said the organization also received $10,000 in state funding for building repairs, and that they are now in the process of getting estimates for the cost of the work. While the group has only been located in the building since February 2016, Cochran said the building was built in the mid-1800s, and is in need of repairs to help protect it for the future.
"If we can sort of start that cascade of events to make that Old Columbia Pike corridor a showpiece as we go down [to Main Street] that would be a great goal of ours," she said.
As a part of the Department of Planning and Zoning, the Historic Preservation Commission's funding will go toward the publication and distribution of updated design guidelines for buildings in Ellicott City. The guidelines were adopted by the county in 1998 and are used to recommend exterior alterations to buildings in historic Ellicott City and Lawyers Hill, such as what building materials should be used. Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Amy Gowan said the commission will begin updating the guidelines in the coming weeks.
Howard County Historical Society will use its grant to help create a children's museum next door to the organization's existing museum on Court Avenue in Ellicott City.
Executive Director Shawn Gladden said the museum, which will be geared toward elementary and middle school-aged students, will give attendees a glimpse into what it was like to live in town in the 1800s. The museum will consist of four rooms that will allow for a hands-on experience: a school room, living room, a workshop and a town square.
Gladden said he hopes the museum will offer schools an affordable, interactive field trip option, and that it will help to further market Ellicott City as a historic destination spot, much like other nearby towns such as Gettysburg, Pennsylvania or Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
While the money awarded is not enough to fully fund the project, Gladden said the funding from the grant will be put toward the construction of the museum, which he hopes to see completed within the next two years. The museum hired an architect for the project last week, and Gladden said they hope to see renderings in November.
"We see in the future a great opportunity to market these historic sites to bring even more families into historic Ellicott City for a nice, inexpensive, family friendly experience," Gladden said.