Saint Joseph’s College

I spent last week in Emmitsburg, Maryland at the National Emergency Training Center for FEMA. It was a long and exciting week filled with excruciating travel days, beautiful historic buildings, and a trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania.

Since there was so much seen, I’ve split my initial post into four different topics: Saint Joseph’s College, the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the Gettysburg National Park, and how to survive airport layovers of up to 15 hours. So that means, keep a look out for those upcoming posts!

Burlando Building
This is the Burlando Building, which was designed by E.G. Lind. When designing the building he took into account the architectural features of the Chapel located right next to the building such as the arches, pilasters, and brick.

I arrived in Emmitsburg, Maryland in the late afternoon last Sunday. I was asleep most of the bus ride that took me from Baltimore Airport to the training campus. The National Emergency Training Center is located on the former campus of Saint Joseph’s College. The college, originally the Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School, was started shortly after Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton arrived in Emmitsburg in 1809. The academy was the first free parochial school for girls in the United States; officially it was incorporated as a school in 1816. It remained a school until 1973, during those years it changed names a number of times, and it was in 1902 that the school officially became a four-year liberal arts college for women. The college officially closed in 1973 and students and faculty merged with Mount Saint Mary’s University, which is located near Emmitsburg. The buildings and cemetery of the campus and the Mother Seton Shrine were listed in 1976 on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. In 1979, the Sisters of Charity, a religious order established by Mother Seton, sold the old campus to the FEMA. It was renamed the National Emergency Training Center in 1981.

The old campus buildings are a conglomerate of different architectural styles. I didn’t photograph every building, only the ones that were the most interesting to look at.

The photograph above is the Burlando Building constructed in 1870; it’s the most recognizable building on campus. I only was able to get a few exterior photos of the building because I never had enough time to get into the building. The building is considered to be a “provincial” example of the Second Empire Style, thanks to it’s prominent mansard roof! So…before I move on, “provincial,” not my word, this came from page two of the original National Register nomination (that’s listed below for you to check out).

When ever I see this word, I immediately think Beauty and the Beast and I want to break out in song! What it means or at least how it was used in the nomination for this district….is that it’s not “high-style,” so the building has some of the most common architectural features of a specific style but not all of the features to make it perfect prime example of what Second Empire Revival looks like.

Side View of the Burlando Building
This is the side facade of the Burlando Building. This side entrance leads into the campus library.

Right next to the Burlando Building is the Saint Joseph’s Chapel.

St. Joseph's Chapel

It took me two days to get into this building. The first attempt was after classes on Monday. Every damn door was locked. It’s not a usual thing when I can’t find a way into a building but when it does happen, I realize immediately how sketchy I look, systematically trying every door in the middle of the afternoon. It’s a good thing it wasn’t at night!

On an extreme side note, I always think that should I get stopped and questioned by law enforcement for looking sketchy outside of a locked building. I would just exclaim, “I’m a preservationist and this building DESERVES to be photographed…” and that would be more than enough and explain everything!

So anyways, since I couldn’t find a way into the Chapel, I checked out the “E” building on campus. This is the St. Vincent’s Hall, it seems to be connected to two other halls: Marillac and Seton. All three buildings were constructed between 1925-26 and are all Colonial Revival.

Saint Vincent's Hall

The interior of St. Vincent Hall is very intact, click through the photos to see.

The next day I was able to get into the Chapel with some of my classmates. The Chapel was constructed in 1839 and in the National Register nomination papers, the chapel is considered to slightly be “Italianate” or even “Romanesque” in style because of the rounded arch windows. Mother Seton also asked that the church resemble the Tuscan architecture she had encountered while in Tuscany in the late 18th century. The plans were drawn up by Rev. Thomas Butler. Today the chapel is the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel.

Hmmmmmm. Would I call this strictly a provincial type of “Italianate” or even “Romanesque”? No. Where are the Syrian arches? Joking. But really, where are they?!?

I think it would be more interesting and accurate to look at the Chapel as a combination of many different architectural elements inspired greatly by what Mother Seton wanted in 1839 and what was present in other Catholic churches in the early 19th century. The Chapel, is obviously “provincial” and I think is combines a lot of architectural features that would have been commonly seen in the early 19th century: the steeple is Wren-Gibbs inspired and there are rounded arches but those could be found on Greek Revival buildings or even Georgian Colonial structures. The building does give off an “Italian” feel but if it wasn’t constructed of brick and say, marble or another stone or even wood, would it still give that feeling…I don’t know.

I compiled a list of churches from roughly the same time frame that are considered either “Georgian Colonial” or “Greek Revival” that have comparable architectural features to the Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. There is one church that was constructed in the 20th century and is considered to be “Colonial Revival.” This help shows that it’s not always easy to pin-point an architectural style. There’s also links to Wikipedia pages about

Romanesque Revival: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanesque_Revival_architecture

Italianate Architecture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italianate_architecture

Let me know what you think about the architectural style of the Chapel below in the comments.

Make sure to check in tomorrow to read the next post about my trip to Emmitsburg. We’re going to learn about the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, which is located right next door to the National Emergency Training Center.

Thanks for reading!

Further Information:

National Register Nomination for Saint Joseph College: https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/NR_PDFs/NR-355.pdf

National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel:

https://www.firehero.org/fallen-firefighters/memorial-park/national-fallen-firefighters-memorial-chapel/

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