Patapsco Female Institute

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Patapsco Female Institute
Patapsco Female Institute, Church Road, Berg Alnwick, Ellicott City (Howard County, Maryland).jpg
Patapsco Female Institute in 1936
Patapsco Female Institute is located in Maryland
Patapsco Female Institute
Patapsco Female Institute is located in the United States
Patapsco Female Institute
LocationEllicott City, Maryland
Coordinates39°16′14″N 76°47′49″W / 39.27056°N 76.79694°W / 39.27056; -76.79694Coordinates: 39°16′14″N 76°47′49″W / 39.27056°N 76.79694°W / 39.27056; -76.79694
Builtca. 1837
Architectural styleGreek Revival
NRHP reference #78001467[1]
Added to NRHPJuly 31, 1978

Patapsco Female Institute (PFI) is a former girls' boarding school, now a partially rebuilt historical site, located on Church Road in Ellicott City, Maryland, United States. The grounds are home to popular outdoor theatrical performances by The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. In the 1930s the Institute was also known as "Warwick".[2]

The Patapsco Female Institute was chartered in January 1834.[3] It was designed by architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. and built by Charles Timanus, who also built the Court House.[4][5] It opened on January 1, 1837 as a girls' finishing school; it remained in operation until 1891.

The granite faced school sized for 100 students was built on 12 acres of land in Ellicott's Mills for a cost of $27,000. The hillside building was close to the new B&O railroad terminal and turnpike roads. A waterworks, greenhouse, servant's quarters, and facilities for male teachers were built on the grounds. Classes consisted of Latin, mathematics, music, religion, and philosophy. A Normal school program was instituted with students providing labor to reduce tuition. Profit was gained from boarding fees and textbook sales.[6]

Between 1841 and 1855, the school was operated by Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps. Phelps, a northerner and Union supporter relocated to a slave state, accepted students from both the North and the South in order to encourage friendship between the two sections of the country. In 1864, Phelps' wrote of the "fatal curse" of slavery and a present "obscure, dimmed with the tears which fall from mourner's [sic] eyes throughout the land."[7] During Phelps' tenure, the school expanded from six teachers with forty one students to eight teachers and nine staff with seventy students. In 1852, the State removed funding for the school and a board of directors was established with Judge Thomas Beale Dorsey presiding. In 1856, Robert Archer became manager of the school, serving until 1879.[8] During the Civil War, the 12th New Jersey Infantry Regiment camped near the Institute's grounds in 1862 while guarding the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad against the Confederacy's advance.[9]

In 1891, it was purchased by a James E. Tyson. The last manager of the school was Sarah N. Randolph until 1896 when the board of directors sold the declining school.[10] It was converted to a summer hotel called the Burg Alnwick Hotel. Fourteen years later, in 1905, it was purchased by a Miss Lilly Tyson and turned into a private home. In 1917, during the First World War, the building was called into service as a hospital. It was fitted with 50 beds to accommodate wounded veterans returning to the States. In later years, the building was used as a theater and again as a private residence. In 1938, the Howard County School board considered the site for a new school.[11] The guests of the Burg Alnick Hotel used the grounds for shooting clay pigeons.[12] In 1958, the property was sold to the final resident, Dr. Whisman for use as a nursing home. Howard county made a demand of the owner to remove all wood from the structure to prevent fires, including the roof, floors and paneling leaving the institute in a permanent state of ruins. The property was willed to Dr. Whisman's Alma-mater, the University of Cincinnati.[13][14]

In 1966, the County considered buying the eight acre property again as parkland from the University of Cincinnati using a news transfer tax for school and park projects.[15] It was purchased for $17,500 by the County soon after.[16] Since 1966 the building has been under the care of the 'Friends of the Patapsco Institute'; it has been stabilized and partially restored, and the grounds fenced in to limit public access.[5] The county finance director declared the building unrestorable, but budgeted $1.7 million to convert the area around it to a park.

The Patapsco Female Institute is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman named Annie Van Derlot who died of pneumonia while attending school there.[17] While this claim is popular among ghost hunters, there is no record of an Annie Van Derlot ever attending the Institute.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "Major L'Enfant D.A.R.'s to Visit Maryland Town: Mrs. Robert Bennett Will Entertain Chevy Chase Pen Women". The Washington Post. 9 June 1934.
  3. ^ Laura Rice. Maryland in Prints 1743-1900. p. 147.
  4. ^ James A Clark Jr. Jim Clark Soldier Farmer Legislator. p. 21.
  5. ^ a b Harnon, Jean O. (January 1975). "Patapsco Female Institute". Nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  6. ^ Isabella Margaret Elizabeth Blandin. History of Higher Education of Women in the South Prior to 1860. p. 173.
  7. ^ Isabelle Lehuu. "Phelps, Almira Hart Lincoln";;American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  8. ^ Isabella Margaret Elizabeth Blandin. History of Higher Education of Women in the South Prior to 1860. p. 177.
  9. ^ Tom Fuchs (2007). "Patapsco Female Institute: Classes and Camps". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  10. ^ "Patapsco Institute". The Ellicott City Times. 18 April 1879.
  11. ^ "1938 Board Minutes" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-16. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  12. ^ M. Lee Preston Jr. Archaeology In Howard County and Beyond. p. 18.
  13. ^ "HO-78 Ellicott City" (PDF). Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Patapsco Institute". The Times (Ellicott City). 31 March 1965.
  15. ^ "Miller favors buying building". The Baltimore Sun. 19 February 1966.
  16. ^ Molly Sinclair (5 August 1993). "Properties Offer a Glimpse of Other Eras". The Washington Post.
  17. ^ Troy Taylor (1998). "The Patapsco Female Institute". Haunted Ellicott City. Ghosts of the Prairie. Retrieved February 15, 2012.

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