The Wayside Inn is located near an original portion of the Old Columbia Turnpike, which was established in the early 18th Century. This turnpike was intended to serve as a major link from the mill of Ellicott’s Lower Mills, later renamed Ellicott City, south to Georgetown in Washington, DC.
An original milepost still stands about 200 yards south of the Inn with the inscription “2M to E.C”. The book, “The Diary of George Cooke: Twenty-three Years On a Maryland Plantation, 1826-1849”, bespeaks the importance of this turnpike on the daily lives of the area plantation owners.
Local Historians indicate that the Wayside Inn was one of several Inns in what was at first Ann Arundel County, and later Howard County. While it is frustrating that no records have been found to verify this assertion, its proximity to the old turnpike makes it a likely candidate. A further indication would be the name, Wayside Inn. Nowhere are there records of that name as a commercial establishment, yet the name has been passed down through many generations of owners, leading one to believe that this was once an established Inn. Local lore has it that both General George Washington and John Quincy Adams were guests at the Inn and that could certainly have been the case, especially for Washington. We know for fact he was in the general vicinity. His name is on a ledger at a pub in nearby Elkridge.
Ownership records show that the tract of land on which the Inn now stands was first contained in a special warrant granted to a Henry Pierpoint by his Lordships Land Office (perhaps by The Lord Baltimore, himself?) in 1755. Shortly thereafter a formal survey of the land was completed and the tract was named “Search”. In subsequent years various parcels of land were added, bringing the total property to approximately 200 acres and the name was changed to “Search Enlarged” (real creative, this Pierpoint, eh?) In the ensuing three decades, Pierpoint sold off parts of the property to various parties including his daughter Elizabeth. A major portion was sold to a Michael Pue, a Baltimore physician, and his wife Mary in the Early 1780s. It is thought the house that is now the Inn and several other structures were a part of that sale for two main reasons:
The sale price was listed as 4 Pounds Sterling per acre, a huge increase over the nominal price for the property of 1 schilling per acre recorded in the years just prior. This would indicate that the property had been improved by adding buildings, etc.,
The deed listed not only the land, but also “premises and appurtenances,” which would seem to indicate that the house was already standing. We therefore date the time of the house to approximately 1780.
Portions of the original estate were sold to several prominent families of the time, among them the Hughes, several of the Pue family and one Edward Hill Dorsey. We are sure that it is no coincidence that the first village of the new town of Columbia that one arrives in when going south from the Inn is known as Dorsey’s Search. The estate was divided even further throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century where it passed to families such as the Shapiros, the Hodges and the Parletts. The property deteriorated until Robert and Charlotte Hartkopf, prominent Ellicott City restaurateurs, purchased it in 1963. They renovated the property and sought and received the first historical designation awarded to the house. Since the Hartkopfs, the house has known only three owners: the Gerards who purchased it in 1976, the Osantowskis, who purchased it in 1980 and were the couple who finally renovated the third floor and opened it as a bed and breakfast, and finally us, Susan and David Balderson, who purchased it in 1998 and reopened the Inn as it is now in 1999.
The Wayside Inn is known throughout this area as “that house with the candles in the windows.” Many myths have sprung up concerning those famous candles including but not limited to: 1.“They show the house is haunted!” 2. One of the owner’s sons went off to war and the mother put the candles in the windows as a tribute to her son. 3. In the same vain, one mother put the candles in the windows when here son went off to war and said they would stay there until he came home. He never did which is why they are still burning.
The truth is, the Hartkopfs revived what they understood to be an old English tradition of putting candles in every window to show that this was a public house and that weary travelers were welcome to stay here. A traveler could tell from the lighted candles in the bedroom windows that rooms were available (an early vacancy sign) and would come in for a meal and a room. The Hartkopfs put a candle, now electric of course, in all 35 windows of the house and kept them burning 24 hours a day. This fact has even been recorded in Ripley’s: Believe it or Not.” Today we carry on the tradition. While we do not have all 35 windows bedecked with candles, all of the bedrooms have candles lit to show you, the weary traveler, that there is a room available. And in the old tradition, as you check-in in the evening, we extinguish your candles to indicate that your room is no longer available.