The Buildings, They Are Sleeping Now: The History of St. Mary's College

[ Articles | Features | Historical Images | Links | Credits ]

For over 100 years, St. Mary's College was a religious preparatory school for young men entering the seminary. The school was founded in 1866 and its main building was erected in 1868 in Ilchester, Maryland, just outside Ellicott City and not too far west of Baltimore on the B&O rail line. The school was run by a Catholic religious order known as the Redemptorists. Over the years, the number of men entering the order dwindled and the school was eventually forced to close its doors in 1972.

As the building began to fall into disrepair, it became a target for vandals and thrill-seekers who nicknamed it "Hell House". These trespassers may or may not have been responsible for the major fire in 1997 that left the building the crumbling mess that it is today. Despite its current state, the air of mystery around the building has only grown and rumors still circulate -- there was a psychotic caretaker who would release his man-eating dogs on trespassers, satanic cults were performing strange rituals on the grounds, people had been murdered, there were ghosts of former students haunting the building, etc. Most of these rumors are false, although there was at some point a somewhat unstable caretaker patrolling the grounds who got a little too carried away one night and shot a trespasser.

This site was created to dispel many of these rumors and provide some history for those curious about St. Mary's. The ruins of the building truly are breathtaking, but the history behind them is interesting as well. By providing accurate information about the property, it's hoped that more people will be more respectful when visiting than those in the past have been.

Articles

The Story Beneath The Ruins, Part I - this article from View gives a good overview of the history behind St. Mary's
The Story Beneath The Ruins, Part II - the second part of the View article, focusing more around the prsent-day myths surrounding St. Mary's
Center Planned - this article (source unknown) gives some insight into the current owners and their reasons for purchasing the property
Old St. Mary's School Draws Teen Daredevils - even before the fire that gutted the building, St. Mary's was a frequent target of vandals
Caretaker in Ilchester is charged in shooting - the infamous caretaker does exist, and he was dangerous, but whether or not he's still around is unkown
Fire Destroys Historic Seminary in Ilchester and Suspicious fire destroys former seminary, college - two articles about the 1997 fire that left the building in the state it's in today

Features

Photo Gallery - pictures from our visits to St. Mary's
Interview - an interview with two St. Mary's alumni

Historical Images

In 1957, a book called Ilchester Memories was published by the school. It was a detailed history of the school and contained several pages of photographs. These are photocopies of photocopies, so the quality isn't great, but they give you a good idea of what the school looked like...
Main building - circa 1868
Views of the South and North - two more early photographs
Photo montage - various pictures of the building as it existed in 1957
Wide-angle shots - two views of the front of the building
Entrances - how did people get up there? These pictures give some insight
Patapsco State Park views - images of the state park, which borders the college
Shrines & statues - these were scattered about the property -- obviously none remain there today
Services inside the building - these pictures give you some idea of what it looked like on the inside
Ilchester faculty - circa 1902
Area map - St. Mary's is considerably harder to find on a map these days

Various newspaper photos...
St. Mary's main entrance - to give you an idea of how much damage has been done, all that remains of the original text on the facade above the door is the "GE" at the end
Prospective new owner for St. Mary's - in the 1980's, several groups talked about purchasing the property like Kamakoti & Tirupati, who wanted to turn the building into a new-age seminary
Another prospective owner - this man wasn't successful, but check out the view of the building behind him
The 1997 fire - a great picture of the building in flames, too bad the quality isn't better
St. Mary's, post-fire - a view of the building after the fire but before the building began to really start to crumble

Links

The Howard County Historical Society - the source of most of our research
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Ilchester MD Parish - the owners and operators of St. Mary's for over 100 years, this site gives a good history of their involvement
Lost Destinations - Hell House - this site plays into the whole "Hell House" myth and their information is inaccurate, but they have some nice pictures

Site Credits

Ann Tabor - transcriptions, photographs, research
Mark Robinson - design, photographs, research

contact us if you have any information or questions about St. Mary's.

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