Exploring America’s Largest Unincorporated County Seat
In my continuation of exploring my home state of Maryland, I recently visited the historic downtown district of Ellicott City. Established by three Quaker brothers from Pennsylvania in 1772, Ellicott City is the county seat of Howard County. It is also listed among America’s most affluent communities. With roughly 65,000 residents in Ellicott City, it is the largest unincorporated county seat in the U.S.
If you plan to visit Historic Ellicott City, there are plenty of things to do, see, eat, and drink. With 244 years of history, you will find lots of buildings to see and photograph. Visit the historic B&O Railroad Museum located just off of the main street. Speaking of Main Street, it is also known as the Old National Pike or Old National Road, and ran from just west of Baltimore to east of Missouri.
Main Street is also lined with plenty of shops of all types. Everything from toys stores to antiques to clothing to furniture. I grew to love shopping as a kid by spending time with my mother and grandmother visiting small towns and shopping centers, so I visited a large majority of the shops. There were three, that to me, stood out.
Having grown up in a small town, as a kid I always wanted a toy store nearby. Inside of All Time Toys, kids may not find the latest and greatest toys, but adults who grew up in the 1980s and 90s will have flashbacks to their childhood. With glass cases holding Lego mini figures, Transformers, and early video game consoles, I felt like a kid again. If I could have, I would have purchased a couple of game systems and several games for each. I look forward to sharing it with my kids.
In what looked to be an old theater, Precious Gifts, is a store with glass cases filled with all types of tchotchkes. Everything from Disney, Peanuts, and Jim Shore figurines and dolls. The staff was very kind and answered my questions and even showed me a few ideas for gifts for my wife. This is the type of place that seems like your grandmother bought all of her decorations for her home, at least for my generation. I was actually overwhelmed and could have spent thousands of dollars in this store.
I also entered an antique store named Antique Depot. From the outside, it looked like it was going to be a typical small antique store. After I walked in and began to peruse the shelves, I realized that this was no small store. This store has three large floors of antiques, trinkets, vinyl records, Legos, clothes, jewelry, etc. It took me a solid hour or so just to explore the depths of this store. The staff behind the counter were very nice and were chatting with customers and each other every time I passed by. It is always nice to see staff who are polite and welcoming.
For lunch, I had so many options that it was hard to decide. With small bistros and local restaurants, I looked at each menu and decided to grab a simple meal. I headed into The Phoenix Emporium and immediately felt at home. The Phoenix Emporium is a small little pub style restaurant and bar with a bright atmosphere. When I sat down, I began to wonder what beer they had. I was then handed a beer menu. They have 99 different bottled beers on hand! I couldn’t believe it.
And to help you narrow down your choice, they divide the beers into categories of states and countries. I ordered a beer and burger and began to look around the bar. I then realized there was a large number of small plaques. I inquired as to what they were and was told that they have what is called the 99 bottled beer challenge. If you drink one of each of their 99 different bottled beers, you receive your name on a plaque and it is placed with the rest of the people who have completed the challenge. The fastest time in which it has been completed is 8 days! If you are ever in Ellicott City, stop into The Phoenix Emporium for some good food and cold beer.
With every location I visit, or re-visit, I am reminded why I love being a Marylander. This state has so many great places to go and see, as well as great restaurants. Plus, there is so much history in Maryland that I can’t help but be proud to call Maryland my home.