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Center Planned

Linda Friskey
March 1, 1984

see original newsclipping

The Kamakoti & Tirupati Foundation plans to open the doors of historic St. Mary's College in Ilchester to anyone who wants to study religion and philosophy.

But that probably won't happen anytime soon.

A.N. Murty, director and spokesman for the non-profit foundation, said repair work has to be done first. The college and chapel, built in the 1800s, need everything from roof work to sewer and water hook-ups.

The foundation, named after a monastery and temple in India, was incorporated in Maryland in September to operate the spiritual center, Murty said. He would not reveal the identity of the founders, saying they prefer that their charitable work through the center be anonymous. Nor would Murty say whether the founders reside in the county.

Murty, who has an office in Savage, said he is on a one-year sabbatical from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he has been a physics professor for more than 15 years. He is scheduled to return to Grambling in the fall, he said, but may extend his sabbatical.

The college's owner, Michael Nibaldi, said the founders entered into a rental agreement with him Friday, but he would not comment on the terms. He did say that the founders- whose names he would not divulge- plan to buy St. Mary's. Murty said settlement is to be next August, at which time the founders will decide how many of the estate's 33 acres they can afford to buy.

Murty estimated that the foundation would pay $250,000 for the buildings and 12 acres, and an additional $150,000 for the remaining acres.

The seminary will be a non-sectarian refuge with a well-stocked library for anyone who wants to contemplate and discuss religion. Rooms-for-rent will be available for those who want to spend a few days in seclusion. The foundation plans to sponsor some students and others to study there, and to encourage them and world religious leaders to write articles for a journal the foundation hopes to establish.

"Such a spiritual center would be serving a good purpose for the society," Murty said. He stressed that the seminary will in no way be connected with any faith or cult.

Nibaldi decided to sell the foundation a few months ago, when local architect James Schulte gave up his ideas for St. Mary's. Schulte tried unsuccessfully for nearly two years to persuade county boards and area residents that the college should be converted to apartments.

County officials say the foundation's proposals meet zoning regulation requirements. In a letter to the foundation, John W. Musselman, chief of the Division of Land Development and Zoning Administration, wrote, "Your proposed use of the property, i.e. to continue the spiritual tradition initiated over 127 years ago, is recognized and lauded."

St. Mary's College was constructed by the Catholic Redemptorist Fathers in 1868. The chapel was built in 1882.



Caretaker in Ilchester is charged in shooting

Trespasser on grounds of former seminary is critically injured

Jean Thompson
The Sun in Howard, May 12, 1996

see original newsclipping

The caretaker of a former seminary in rural Ilchester has been charged in the shooting of a trespasser during an early morning altercation yesterday that left the intruder critically wounded, Howard County police said.

Allen Rufus Hudson, 45, of the 4400 block of Bonnie Branch Road in Ellicott City , was charged with assault, battery, and assault with intent to murder, police said.

He was being held in the Howard County jail in lieu of $20,000 bail last night.

Colt James Conroy, 22, of the 1100 block of W. Hamburg St. in Baltimore was taken by friends to St. Agnes Hospital , where he underwent surgery, police said.

Conroy was listed last night in critical but stable condition with a shotgun wound to his left side, police said.

According to a police report, four people were trespassing early yesterday on the sprawling grounds of the former St. Mary's College seminary for Redemptorist priests off Bonnie Branch Road .

The property is near the rambling Patapsco Valley State Park .

Police said the caretaker confronted the trespassers and ordered them to leave.

About 6:30 a.m. , three adult males armed with baseball bats returned to the site, police said.

When these trespassers again confronted the caretaker and an associate, the caretaker fired his shotgun once.

A bullet stuck one of the trespassers in his left side, the police said.

The trespasser's friends took him to St. Agnes and notified police, officers said.

The seminary was closed several years ago by the Redemptorists.


Sun staff writer Alisa Samuels contributed to this article.



Old St. Mary's School Draws Teen Daredevils

Maria Archangelo and Susan Thornton
Columbia Flier, May 23, 1996

see original newsclipping

The 66 stone steps, covered in leaves and broken beer bottles, stretch up the rocky hill just off Ilchester Road. Decades ago, the Redemptorist priests and students of the old St. Mary's seminary and college used to ascend those stairs, nicknamed "Jacob's Ladder," after alighting from the B&O trains. Now only furtive teenagers, fortified with Budweiser or Coors, make the climb.

The magnificent buildings, some more than 100 years old, have deteriorated over the past 10 years and become a magnet for thrill-seeking teens. Where once brothers used to prune roses in the company of statuary saints, teens now dare one another to trespass and vandalize.

These days, the single inhabitant of the property is the caretaker- to the teens, a resident boogeyman.

And the spooky atmosphere created by overgrown gardens and crumbling brick have earned the buildings a new name. Teenagers from Woodlawn to Mt. Airy to Glen Burnie know the property as Hell House.

A Bravery Test

Jamie Nash, a 24-year old computer game designer who lives in Catonsville, has been collecting stories about Hell House for years. He can relate rumors of Satanic altars or drug labs or ghosts housed within.

He's never been inside any of the buildings, but most of his high school friends considered entry a right of passage. "It is the crown jewel of teenage trespassing and vandalism," he said.

The object, he said, is to get as far inside the newer of the two main buildings as possible. On the second floor of that building, some say, is a satanic altar.

Enmeshed in the legend of Hell House is caretaker Allen Hudson, sometimes called "the hillbilly" because of his wild appearance.

Getting caught on the property by Hudson is part of the "bravery test," Nash said.

Last week, Hudson was arrested on assault with intent to murder charges stemming from the May 11 shooting of a Baltimore man, who had come onto the property with two other men carrying bats. The men had been there earlier on the evening and Hudson had ordered them off the property, according to the police.

David Greenberg, Hudson's attorney since 1989, explained that over the years vandals have broken windows, ripped phones from the wall, torn down the "No trespassing" signs and fences, broken the security lights and have even stolen the copper downspots.

Hudson himself could not be reached for comment this week. He was released from the Howard County Detention Center last week after posting $2,000 bail.

Kenneth Smith, who lives with his wife Ardellia on property adjacent to St. Mary's, is sympathetic to Hudson's problem with the teenagers; they're trespassing and vandalizing, he said.

"He's OK, just don't mess with him," Smith said.

County police spokesman Sgt. Steve Keller said that since 1994, officers have been called to St. Mary's more than 15 times.

The majority of those times, Hudson called the police to report trespassing, burglaries or destruction of property.

Hudson's arrest last week appears to be the first time he has been criminally charged in connection with trespassers on the property, but it is not the first time complaints about him have been lodged.

Hudson was the target of two civil lawsuits filed in Howard County Circuit Court. In August 1991, a Severna Park man filed a $1.3 million lawsuit against Hudson stemming from a 1990 incident on the property.

Russell Six claimed that Hudson had beaten him, sicked dogs on him and threatened to kill him. Six tried but to run away, according to the suit, but fell off an elevated driveway and got a fractured pelvis and a concussion. Hudson countersued, charging that Six and two women came onto the property uninvited late at night and that Six got hurt when he ran away from the caretaker.

A county jury issued a split verdict, awarding Six more than $5,000 in medical expenses but declining to give him any money for pain and suffering.

The jury also awarded Hudson $1 for his countersuit against Six.

Another man, who was walking near the property on April 18, 1992 at 2:30 p.m., also sued Hudson because one of his dogs "charged, bit and viciously attacked" him, according to the lawsuit.

That case was settled in May 1994, but details of the settlement were not available this week.

A failed dream

Hudson lives on the grounds as a tenant of the nonprofit Kamakoti and Tirupati Foundation, says the owner of the 33-acre property, Sateesh Kumar Singh. He purchased the property in 1988 for about $400,000 through a corporation he formed with a number of people around the country.

Singh, with bare feet and a long white beard, stood outside his River Island apartment in Savage Monday to talk about the foundation and the seminary property. Hudson is "kind of like a tenant," Singh said. "It's complicated," he added, but wouldn't say more.

Neither Hudson nor Singh can stop teens from vandalizing the property, said Singh, who is also part-owner of the apartments where he lives. Singh said police can't protect the property either, any more than they can keep people from cutting down redwood trees or burning churches.

The foundation bought the property, he said, with the intent of creating a comparative religion foundation on its grounds.

Now, that foundation is "dormant," Singh said, and has no money left for its "grand plans."

A.N. Murty, a professor of physics at Grambling State University in Lousiana, lived at the college from 1983 to 1985 while he was helping to start the foundation.

The foundation wanted to renovate the college and initiate an International Institute for Religious Studies to investigate parallels and connections between the world's major religions. The group wanted to build a library, hold lectures, do research, recruit scholars, Murty said.

"That was the objective," Murty said, but now there is no money to pay him to write grants.

"I'm of the frame of mind that if someone wants to buy it, even at a low price, I'll sell it," Singh said.

A beautiful past

The property was originally owned by the Ellicott brothers; one of their grandsons built a hotel and a tavern on the property. The Catholic Redemptorists bought the property from the Ellicotts in 1866, and built a seminary on 1868. As the number of incoming seminarians decreased, the priests added a private Catholic day school.

Writings on 19th century architecture praise the school's elaborate brick and stone work, its Roman arched niches with statues of Madonna and child, its Italian Renaissance-style steeple towering over the Patapsco River.

In 1968, a fire destroyed a main building, but the seminarians housed had already been moved to Wisconsin and New York. The parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help stayed at the site until the late 70s, when it moved up the hill to its present Ilchester Road site.

The property has changed hands a number of times, as developers tried to alter the zoning from its present preservation status to one that would allow apartments or townhouses.

Ardellia Smith, who lives next to the property, remembers playing in the St. Mary's gardens as a girl. Her grandmother washed the priests' laundry. After the brothers and students left, Smith took her three young sons to the seminary kitchen and cooked for the remaining priests.

"It was just beautiful," she recalls. "The chapel was always cool; it had marble floors. I thought the world would end when the Redemptorists left."

She hasn't visited the grounds since 1971, she said sadly: "But I hear it's a wreck up there."



Suspicious fire destroys former seminary, college

Tanya Jones, Sun Staff
Baltimore Sun, 1997

see the original newsclipping

The former St. Mary's College in Howard County , once a seminary and retreat for priests of the Redemptorists order, went up in flames yesterday morning, in a blaze that state officials have labeled suspicious.

County firefighters will let the five-story brick structure smolder out over the next few days, then have it demolished.

Investigators with the state fire marshal's office are calling the blaze suspicious because the building has been vacant since the 1970s, according to Allen L. Ward, deputy chief state fire marshal.

Baltimore County firefighters, called to the scene first, called Howard County firefighters at about 5:15 a.m.

By then, the building was engulfed in flames, but it is not clear when the blaze started, said Capt. Sean Kelly of the Howard County Fire Department.

A county fire chief on the scene determined that firefighters would be needlessly endangered if they tried to enter the building or stood near it because the 12-inch thick walls might collapse, Kelly said.

"There was no reason to put anybody in danger," Kelly said.

A caretaker who lives on the property, Allen Rufus Hudson, will not be allowed to live in his nearby home because a building wall might fall on it, Kelly said.

Gray smoke mixed with fog over


Fire damages historic seminary in Ilchester

By A Sun Staff Writer
October 24, 1996

see original newsclipping

A fire damaged two rooms in a historic, vacant Catholic seminary yesterday in Ilchester, Howard County fire officials said.

The fire was reported about 4:50 p.m. at the old St. Mary's Seminary off Bonnie Branch Road near Ellicott City , said Lt. Ken Byerly, a spokesman for the Department of Fire and Rescue.

The blaze was confined to two rooms in the five-story brick building, which has been closed for more than a decade, and was declared under control by 6 p.m.

Damage was estimated at $5,000.

About 15 units from Howard, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, with 50 firefighters, responded to the fire, Byerly said. Access to the site was difficult because so much of the area is overgrown with brush.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the state fire marshal's office.

The 128-year-old building once housed a college seminary for students training to be Redemptorist priests.



Fire Destroys Historic Seminary in Ilchester

Jennifer Gunter,
Washington Viaduct
December '97 - January '98

see the original newsclipping

A fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the five-story historic St. Mary's College seminary on Halloween night. The building, which once housed hundreds of seminarians, has been abandoned since the 1970s.

Because of the building's historical significance, we are reprinting a "Letter to the Editor," published in The Sun on November 16, with the permission of Peter Herman of The Sun :

I am writing to share some of the fascinating information I uncovered in researching St. Mary's College for an undergraduate history project at the University of Maryland , Baltimore County . I am now a graduate student in the history department at the University of Maryland , College Park .

As mentioned in The Sun , George Ellicott sold the 110-acre plot of land in 1866 to the Redemptorists. The cornerstone was laid on September 12, 1867 . For 130 years, the immense and austere St. Mary's college overlooked the Patapsco River and Bonnie Branch Road .

A popular destination for teenagers seeking mystery, many pilgrimages were made to St. Mary's College, also referred to as "Hell House" by wistful youths looking for ghosts.

The pilgrimage was made at night, driving deep into the hills of Patapsco Park along winding and steep Thistle Road . The tall trees and stone bridge create a rustic, extremely old feeling. Upon reaching the college, strict "No Trespassing" signs fueled imaginations, and, according to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, much trespassing.

I can only hope that the mystery surrounding the building did not encourage arson on Halloween weekend.

St. Mary's College was a remnant of a rich and impressive religious group. It was historically significant in the context of Catholicism in Maryland and in the settlement patterns of the late 19th century.

Staff writer Tanya Jones states that the current owner is unknown.

The current owner is S.K. Singh, owner of BCS Limited Partnership, which purchased the building on December 30, 1986 . Attempts to contact S.K. Singh throughout my research were unsuccessful.

Fortunately for those interested, significant artifacts were removed from the College and placed in the rectory at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish and school.

Included among the links to the past are the Last Supper scene and a Mayer stained-glass window.

Although the building is no longer standing, many records and artifacts survive to tell the tale of the Redemptorists here in Howard County .