Mother Seton House – Baltimore, Maryland

Mother Seton House – Baltimore, Maryland

In 1808 Mrs. Elizabeth Seton and her three daughters came to Baltimore from New York City to establish a boarding school for girls.  They set up in the three-story, Federal-style house which offered to her for the use by the Sulpician Fathers..  When they arrived at the house Mrs. Seton heard church bells ringing as their carriage drove up to the house.  Behind this house is the Historic Seminary Chapel which was newly built and being dedicated on that day by Bishop John Carol, first bishop of the United States.

The location of the house was considered “in the country” because it was one mile or so from the city harbor.  Today, it’s in the city proper and worth the visit to see.

During her year in this house, Elizabeth Seton made her decision to take the vows of a Daughter of Charity. She made her first profession of vows in the Lower Chapel on March 25, 1809, the Feast of the Annunciation. It was also in the Lower Chapel that she received the sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop Carroll. It was Bishop Carroll who first called Elizabeth “Mother Seton.”

On June 22, 1809, Mother Seton and four young women who also took vows as postulates that Spring, left Baltimore for Emmitsburg, where she would found a permanent school for girls. Mother Seton was able to purchase St. Joseph’s Valley, now part of Emmitsburg, Maryland, with a gift she received from a seminary student named Samuel Cooper.

It was at St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in the lower chapel or “Chapelle Basse” that was the birthplace for the very first African-American Catholic Community in 1796.

On the site there are two buildings that are listed as National Historic Landmarks: the Historical Seminary Chapel and the Motehr Seton House.

The site at 600 North Paca continues to serve the spiritual needs of many through the work of St. Mary’s Spiritual Center. The Spiritual Center is housed in a three-story, Federal-style building which once served as the convent for
the Sisters of Divine Providence, who worked at the seminary. Now it houses the office for the site, as well as serves as the residence for the Sulpician Father working as the director of the site.

As in 1791 the site continues its rich tradition of ongoing spiritual and intellectual growth and development. The staff at the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center offers individual spiritual direction as well as numerous workshops for parish, diocesan groups, and others. The center continues to exercise Sulpician hospitality by hosting groups from other religious traditions who wish to make use of the spiritual center, its resources, and the beautiful grounds.

This painting of the Head of Christ and the Lap Trunk are the only two objects in the house that once belonged to Mrs. Seton during the time she lived here on Paca Street. The painting was believed to have been a gift to Elizabeth from her husband William upon his return from a trip to Europe.

In 1821, on her death bed, Elizabeth Seton gave the painting to Archbishop Maréchal. It is believed that it was, in turn, given to Mr. Luke Tiernan, a prominent Baltimore businessman, by Archbishop Maréchal for his help in finding employment for William and Richard Seton and as a token of friendship.

It was said to have been cut out of a larger picture which had been taken from a Church in Spain, during the French occupation of that country, in the Napoleonic wars, and it has this inscription upon the back:

“Bartolomeo Murillo, native de Seviglia
“Presented to the
Archbishop, by Madame Seton in her death bed, 1821.”

Group tours are welcome

  • We encourage groups and bus tours to phone ahead to
    schedule visits so we will have an adequate number of docents available.
  • Admission is free.
  • Off-street parking is available.

Winter Months:
In case of inclement weather, St. Mary’s
Spiritual Center & Historic Site follows the Baltimore County School
District schedule. For example, if schools are closed or delayed due to snow or
ice, so is the site.

Historic Site Visitor Center Hours
12:00-3:30 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 1:00-3:00 p.m.
inclement weather
, please phone ahead to confirm the site is open.

The Historic Site Visitor Center is CLOSED on Holy Saturday and Easter

St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site
600 North
Paca St.
Baltimore, MD 21201-1920
Phone: 410-728-6464
Contact Person:
Sandra Davis

Normal business hours for the site office are Monday-Friday: 9:00
a.m.-5:00 p.m.

The site office is closed on these holidays:
Luther King, Jr. Day
Presidents’ Day
Holy Week – Triduum (Holy Thursday,
Good Friday, and Easter Monday)
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day

Columbus Day
Thanksgiving (Wednesday through Friday of Thanksgiving
Christmas through New Year’s