Ellicott City’s flood-damaged historic buildings hold many stories of the people and events that have animated the city over its long history.

Culinary historian Patricia Bixler Reber recently linked the severely damaged frame structure at 8113 Main Street, which received emergency stabilization with the assistance of Preservation Maryland, to an interesting character in Maryland’s history: Elizabeth Ellicott Lea.

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (b. 1793 – d. 1858), was the granddaughter of Andrew Ellicott, one of the three Quaker brothers who had founded Ellicott City – then known as Ellicott’s Mills – in 1772. She eventually became well-known for her popular cookbook, “Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers,” first published in 1845. The book contained much more than recipes, and was a manual for women as they took on the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and nursing. It was reprinted numerous times in a testament to its popularity.

She is described as having been a “large woman, strong-willed and not easily put off by inconveniences or weak sensibilities,” who though bed-ridden in her later years continued to refine her recipes by shouting orders down the stairs to her cook, who had to present the results for inspection. Lea’s cookbook has been reprinted and even republished with scholarly interpretation of her contributions to Maryland’s culinary history (see Weaver, below), so her original recipes are still available to test out today. Recipes such as Pickled Peaches are posted on Reber’s food history blog.

Though Lea seemingly never lived at 8113 Main Street, she did collect ground rent from the property which helped support her as she raised eight children as a widow. This historic building’s connection to Elizabeth Ellicott Lea is a great reminder of the fascinating stories that lie within Ellicott City’s historic district and of the importance of restoring and preserving one of Maryland’s most historic places.

More “Made in Maryland” Stories

Join Preservation Maryland Today