Director Vito inspecting masonry with workers in May 2020.
Coastal Exteriors beginning work in interior courtyard in May 2020.
St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site received confirmation of a Baltimore National Heritage Area Small Cap Grant on December 9, 2019. The grant is for the preservation of the brick walls and structures throughout the patrimonial grounds of the U.S. Sulpician Province. The historic site on Paca Street in Baltimore includes the 1808 St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel and the 1808 Federal-style Mother Seton House on the grounds of the first Roman Catholic Seminary in the United States.
When the original campus of St. Mary’s Seminary closed in 1969, the 1876 landmark seminary structure was beyond repair and was condemned. The buildings and land were transferred to the City of Baltimore in 1975 with the caveat that officials would raze the buildings, establish an open green space park, and never erect other structures on the former seminary grounds. The Sulpicians retained ownership of the 1808 Maximillian Godefroy-designed Chapel, the 1808 Mother Seton House (also credited to Godefroy), and the 1898 Spiritual Center, the former convent for the nuns serving the seminary community. They also maintained the land around these buildings creating a modern-day urban oasis surrounded by contemplative gardens and flora, within the larger green space of St. Mary’s Park.
“St. Mary’s on Paca Street”—as the site is colloquially known—is tasked with two important areas of preservation: nurturing the memories of those associated with the site over its 229-year history and safeguarding the remaining structures. The Mother Seton House and St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel, both brick-and-mortar buildings over 200 years old, need constant attention. The 2009 Visitor Center, designed by GWWO Architects (the firm that designed the Fort McHenry Visitor Center), incorporates a generous amount of the original seminary walls, some from the 1876 final rendition of the seminary, others from older buildings razed in 1891. These seminary walls incorporated into the Visitor Center need repair. The old mortar needs to be chipped out and new mortar applied in the process known as repointing.
St. Mary’s on Paca Street resides within the Baltimore National Heritage Area, a federally designated zone encompassing portions of Baltimore, Maryland. St. Mary’s on Paca Street received a $13,352 grant from BNHA, allowing preservation work on the site to begin. On February 13, 2020, Andrew S. Hill, physical plant director, and Blaine Carvalho, administrator of St. Mary’s on Paca Street, officially accepted the grant certificate from Baltimore City Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young at Baltimore City Hall.
Coastal Exteriors, experts in historic preservation, began repointing work on May 18, 2020, and estimate completion at the end of June. The walls of St. Mary’s on Paca Street, resonating with the inspirational stories of such Catholic stalwarts like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and blessed Fr. Michael McGivney, graduate of St. Mary’s and founder of the Knights of Columbus, and Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, who discerned her vocation in the Lower Chapel on Paca Street, will continue to hold these stories to inspire future generations.