MHT File Photo
St. Charles College Historic District
711, Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, Baltimore County
St. Charles College, a complex containing nine contributing buildings, sits high on a commanding site, known historically as Cloud Cap, overlooking Baltimore to the east. Seen from a distance, the main group appears as a single campus structure dominated by the domed chapel. The main complex consists of six interconnected buildings, three of which form the central group: Chapel, Administration Building, and Old Dormitory. Each has a rusticated stone first floor and upper levels of buff brick with stone trim which rises to a uniform roof or cornice line. The Chapel forms the western wing, the Administration Building the center, and the old Dormitory the eastern wing. This portion of the complex shares a roughly similar architectural style all reflective of the Italian Renaissance, with colossal stone columns rising two stories; stone entrance porches on the Chapel and Administration Building; pedimented windows; and brick pilasters. The three buildings reflect a unity of purpose and common architectural scheme. Directly behind the Administration Building are three additional buildings: the Dining Hall, connected by a passageway; the Convent, physically attached to the Dining Hall, and finally the Power House, across a lane from the complex. West of the Chapel is a low two-story stone and shingle building which dates from the 1880s. East of the old Dormitory and connected to it by a covered passageway is a modern dormitory constructed in 1961. Frederick House, a 2 1/2-story frame farmhouse which existed on the property when it was purchased in 1885, became a faculty residence.
The significance of the St. Charles College Historic District is derived from two sources. First, the College is significant for its association with the development of education for Roman Catholic priests in the United States. When it was founded in 1830, the College was the first Roman Catholic minor (preparatory) seminary in the country; the present complex represents a major expansion of the College following a fire which destroyed the original campus in 1911, and reflects the institution’s continuing development into the 20th century. Second, the College is significant for the architectural character of the campus as a whole, reflecting both the development of the institution and the development of American architectural styles favored for religious educational institutions.