St. Mary's College (Ilchester)

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St. Mary's College
Other name
Mount St. Clemons College
Type Seminary
Active 1868 (1868)–1972 (1972)
Religious affiliation
Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Catholic Church)
Location Ilchester, Maryland, United States
39°15′03″N 76°45′57″W / 39.25083°N 76.76583°W / 39.25083; -76.76583Coordinates: 39°15′03″N 76°45′57″W / 39.25083°N 76.76583°W / 39.25083; -76.76583

St. Marys College was a Roman Catholic school in Ilchester, Maryland (Illchester Mills) near modern Ellicott City, Maryland in Howard County.[1] The ruins are near Ilchester and Bonnie Branch roads.[2] The upper college building was built in 1868 consisting of a cupola topped eighteen bay by five bay building with a five by five bay projection. A three by three bay, five story "L" shaped addition is included, with all of the structure on a stone foundation. A three-story chapel was attached to the building in 1882. In 1934 a fifth floor was added throughout. A statue of Madonna with Child was situated in a niche.[3]


The college is situated on the land of the former Ellicott brothers hotel and a tavern. The site was located adjacent to a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station along the Patapsco River. The site was anchored by a twin of the Savage, Maryland Bollman Truss Iron Railroad Bridge built in 1869 and replaced in 1900.[4] After years of neglect, the buildings and 110 acres (0.45 km2) site was sold by George Ellicott in 1866 to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redeptorists) for $15,000.

Mount St. Clemons College was built with studentate moving from Annapolis in 1868. In 1872 the juventate settled into the expanded lower house (the former Ellicott Tavern), relocating shortly afterward to Pennsylvania in 1881. The name was changed to St. Mary's College in 1882. A student would spend six years at the college before ordination as a priest. A congregation named Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formed to assist poor in the area until 1950. The novitiate moved from Annapolis, to be situated onsite from 1907 to 1972. In 1907 the studentate moved to New York. The Ellicott hotel became the lower house of the college, which was destroyed by fire on 14 June 1968.[5] In 1972 the congregation shut down with only 10 students in its graduating class. The Novitate combined at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.[6]

In 1982 Micheal Nibali, a developer, purchased 33 acres (0.13 km2) of the site for $250,000 including the college, with the intent of converting the building into 96 apartments. Nibali won a controversial bid from executive J. Hugh Nichols to convert the recently burnt Ellicott City Elementary school to apartments.[7][8] After approval failed, the building was abandoned and allowed to be vandalized. During this time, residents and media gave the college building the moniker, "Hell House".[9] In 1987 the Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired 77 acres (0.31 km2) of the site and annexed the land to Patapsco Valley State Park.[10]

The Kamakoti & Tirupati Foundation launched an effort to purchase the site which they had previously leased. In 1988 the site was purchased by Sateesh Kumar Singh of BCS Limited Partnership for $400,000. A caretaker, Alan Rufus Hudson defended the property from vandals with repeated arrests for assault. On Halloween night, 1997, the building was burned by arsonists.[10] The caretaker's building was condemned shortly afterward. The building was completely demolished in 2006.[11]

The college was one of many historical buildings in the region with valuable real estate that was lost to arson, including The Volkmann Manor (1965), Troy Hill (1990), Avondale Mill (1991), Ammendale Normal Institute (1998), Phelps Log Cabin - Moved from North Laurel to Elkridge (2001), Thistle Manufacturing Company, located directly across the river from St. Mary's (2003),[12] and Henryton State Hospital (2007 and 2011)[13][14]


  1. ^ The Year-book of Education for 1878 [and 1879], Volumes 1-2. 1878. p. 258. 
  2. ^ The South in the Building of the Nation. Pelican Publishing. p. 318. 
  3. ^ "HO-392" (PDF). Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  4. ^ Federal Writers' Project. Maryland, a Guide to the Old Line State. p. 309. 
  5. ^ The Howard County Historical Society. Howard County. 
  6. ^ Michael J. Varhola, Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. p. 66. 
  7. ^ "St. Mary's zoning bid comes under attack". The Baltimore Sun. August 11, 1982. 
  8. ^ "Unknown title". The Baltimore Sun. March 29, 1981. 
  9. ^ Ron Franscell. The Crime Buff's Guide to Outlaw Washington, DC. 
  10. ^ a b Duck, Michael (October 19, 2000). "The Story Beneath The Ruins: A History of St. Mary's College in Ilchester". The View from Ellicott City. Archived from the original on February 14, 2004. 
  11. ^ Michael J. Varhola, Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. p. 71. 
  12. ^ "Centuries-old log cabin destroyed by fire". The Durant Daily Democrat. December 25, 2001. 
  13. ^ "Holliday Hills Blaze". The Times. March 31, 1965. 
  14. ^ Pearce, Brett (April 28, 2011). "Yet Another Fire at Henryton State Hospital". Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department. Retrieved March 16, 2013.