As a rain falls at dusk, a color guard from Howard County’s police department and sheriff’s office raises a flag Dec. 1 in front of the Howard County Welcome Center. The flag raising marked the completion of outdoor renovations at the Welcome Center, which lost its flagpole in the flood of 2016. (TBM / Jason Whong)

Even a cold rain couldn’t dim the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered on Dec. 1 to watch a notable Ellicott City flag get raised for the first time in more than seven years. 

The hoisting of the U.S. flag in front of the historic Old Post Office on Main Street, which serves as the county’s welcome center, marked yet another milestone in the city’s flood recovery. 

On July 30, 2016, the first 1,000-year flood that devastated Ellicott City’s historic district nearly washed away the front lawn of the Old Post Office, and the flagpole was uprooted and beyond repair. 

The flag is now the focal point of a newly renovated outdoor space that spans the front of the building. A new parklike setting offers seating, areas for programs, and native plants.

The project, organized via a partnership with Howard County Government, Howard County Tourism Council, Inc., Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks, and Ellicott City Partnership, was largely funded by a grant from the Maryland Capitol Grants Program for streetscaping in the Ellicott City Historic District.

Sen. Clarence Lam was among a number of speakers Dec. 1 who celebrated the completion of outdoor renovations at the Howard County Welcome Center. Behind him are Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, left, and Amanda Hof, executive director of Visit Howard County. (TBM / Jason Whong)

A symbol of hope

Dedicated in 1940, the large granite U.S. Post Office operated until 2008. It now houses the welcome center and offices for Visit Howard County, and is slated to receive an interior renovation. 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball thanked all those involved in the renovation. “You all helped ensure that the state, the region, and the nation know what Howard County is about,” he said. “Having a facade that is welcoming, and raising the flag is symbolic of our hope and emblematic of our character.”

Maryland State Sen. Clarence Lam added his words of thanks. “It is so special to be here at the front door of Ellicott City,” he said. “This is really a time of hope when we see a facade and raise a flag.” 

Maryland State Delegate Jessica Feldmark, who has been involved in the project in different ways over many years, said its completion was a personal milestone. “This is really a fun, full-circle moment for me,” she said. 

Derek Miller, Main Street coordinator of the Ellicott City Partnership, looked forward to the front of the Old Post Office being a gathering space. “This post office once served as a hub of commerce and connection,” he said. “It’s more important than ever that we gather together to connect.” 

Amanda Hof, executive director of Visit Howard County, said welcoming visitors is vitally important to Ellicott City and to all of Howard County. 

“Another driving reason for this project is to create an exhibit experience that wholly and accurately orientates visitors to all of Howard County,” said Hof. “When tourists enjoy attractions and signature events, they take home wonderful memories, and more importantly, they leave behind tax dollars that are reinvested into maintaining Howard County’s nationally recognized quality of life.”