The Howard County Historical Society is starting the holiday season in grand style with its 36th annual Holiday House Tour on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 1 to 6 p.m.

Five privately owned historic properties in Ellicott City will be decked out in their holiday finery and opened to the public for this exclusive tour. This is a rare glimpse into our county's past.


The oldest of the historical homes on the tour is Wayside Inn, circa 1780. You might know it as the house with the candles in the windows on Columbia Road. Local lore suggests Gen. George Washington and John Quincy Adams were guests at the Inn.

Across the street from Witzke's funeral home on Old Columbia Pike sits the Search Enclosed home, circa 1800. The stone cottage was purchased by John L. Clark, grandfather to Sen. James Clark and great-grandfather to Martha Clark of Clark Elioak farm, and operated as part of a grain weighing station.

The site became a popular meeting place for the farming community, which found it a great social outlet after long stretches of isolation during the farming season. Later, the cottage was used as the residence of the grain station master. Today, it continues as a private residence.

The MacAlpine house, circa 1860, was built by James MacKubin for his second wife, Gabriella Peter, a great, great, granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington. It remains a private residence in Dunloggin. The Waldner-Heinemann house, circa 1899, sits on Church Road in the downtown district near the Patapsco Female Institute. Located on the grounds of Bethany United Methodist church, the last historic property on the tour is Bethany chapel, circa 1883, the congregation's original church building.

The Eyre tour bus leaves at 1 p.m. from the Miller Library parking lot. To purchase tickets online, go to the Society's website at http://www.hchsmd.org and click the "events" tab. Or, buy tickets at the society's archive and research library on the second floor of the Miller Library. Limited tickets may be available the day of the event. These tickets are first-come, first-served, so plan to arrive early. Cost is $35 for HCHS members, $40 for guests of members and $50 for the general public, which includes a 2013 individual HCHS membership (a $65 value).

In other historical news, the Miller Branch Library and the Howard County Historical Society will co-sponsor a lecture by veteran Civil War author Dan Toomey titled "Old Men in Blue and Grey, Maryland's Civil War Veterans" on Monday, Dec. 10, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the library's Ellicott Room.

Toomey is considered a leading authority on the Civil War in Maryland and has authored or co-authored 10 books relating to that subject. The event is free but registration is required. To register, go to the Library's website at http://www.hclibrary.org then click the "classes & events" tab or call 410-313-1950.

On Friday, Dec. 7, head to downtown Ellicott City. Sponsored by the Ellicott City Business Association and Howard County's recreation and parks heritage division, activities for kids include Santa's free workshop, complete with elves, at the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin from 5 to 8 p.m. or visit the Firehouse Museum from 6 to 10 p.m. to hear stories of winters past and the brave actions of our fire department.

As an added bonus this holiday season, metered parking fees are waived in the historic district until Jan. 1

At 6 p.m., join County Executive Ken Ulman and his family and County Council member Courtney Watson at the Ellicott City Visitor Center to watch the annual tree lighting ceremony and listen to Christmas carolers. The event is sponsored by the Ellicott City Business Association, Ellicott City Restoration Foundation and Howard County's Promotion and Tourism office. Then start your holiday shopping on main street where stores and restaurants will be open to midnight to celebrate Midnight Madness.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, the holiday fun continues in the historic district when Santa arrives at noon by sled, perfectly perched on a fire truck, during his annual ride through Main Street. I've been told if Mrs. Claus is done with her baking, she may tag along

The parade takes Santa up main street and ends at the Firehouse Museum, where he disembarks to greet kids and their families. Jolly old St. Nicholas will be available for photos at the museum, so don't forget to bring your own camera. Here's a parking tip — the museum is only a block from parking lot F. Also, check out the brand new historic district parking app that can be downloaded at http://www.howardcountymd.gov/ECparking.htm. It's a great way to find empty parking spots.

Get ready for Broadway's hit musical "Annie" starring Ellicott City resident Anne Marie Demme in the title role of the Chapelgate Theatrics holiday production. Directed by veteran Marcia K. Franklin, performances are Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. at Chapelgate Presbyterian Church.

"I think people should come see the show because 'Annie' is such a great show for all ages," Demme, a Centennial High sophomore said. "It touches on optimism, perseverance, and what it really means to be family to someone, which is something I think everyone can relate to."


Tickets for "Annie" are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets online and for additional information go to http://www.chapelgate.org/annie.