J. Richard Rivoire, 06/1975
Seton Hill Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
Period/Date of Construction:
Architect: Maximillian Godefroy and others
Bounded by Orchard Street, Monument Street, Eutaw Street, Franklin Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue
Seton Hill is primarily a residential rowhouse neighborhood that surrounds St. Mary’s Park in the western portion of downtown Baltimore. Including approximately seven city blocks at the convergence of a rectangular and diagonal urban street grid, most of the buildings in the district date from the 19th century and are small two or three story high traditional Baltimore rowhouses. Some of the later buildings have cornices and a few large houses are extant on North Paca Street. The buildings on the Eutaw and Franklin Street edges of the district were either built for or converted to commercial usage. A few of these buildings date from the early 20th century, but are compatible to the older buildings in the district. Saint Mary’s Seminary Chapel, an early Gothic church, and the Mother Seton House, an early gabled roof house, form the centerpiece of the district along with the district’s major open space, Saint Mary’s Park. Other important buildings in the area include the 1905 firehouse at Druid Hill Avenue and Eutaw Street; the former Saint Joseph’s Seminary building at 607-633 Pennsylvania Avenue, built c. 1890 (now used as a nursing home); and the former Franklin Hotel at 412 West Franklin Street, built c. 1905. The general condition of buildings in the district is good, but there are some vacant and boarded buildings. Most of the 20th century commercial buildings stand along Franklin and Eutaw Streets.
Seton Hill is architecturally significant as one of Baltimore’s earliest intact neighborhoods with buildings ranging from tiny, 2 ½-story high residential rowhouses of the early 19th century to large, early 20th century commercial structures. The small, early houses embody the distinctive characteristics of traditional Baltimore residential architecture with flat façades and ornamentation used only at the doors, windows, and rooflines. The later structures reflect the commercialization of Eutaw and Franklin Streets as Baltimore’s retail center expanded to the northwest. Despite this commercialization, the neighborhood retains a 19th century character with a few 20th century buildings that are compatible to the earlier residential structures. While most of the designers of housing in Seton Hill are not known, the master architect, Maximillian Godefroy, was responsible for the Saint Mary’s Seminary Chapel. This building is recognized as the first significant Gothic Revival Church built in America. Historically, the area is linked to Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American canonized Saint. Mother Seton founded the Sisters of Charity, the first order of nuns founded in this country. The Seton Hill district has yielded important information on the growth and change of local neighborhoods throughout the 19th and 20th centuries through: its early, traditional Baltimore houses; the juxtaposition of compatible commercial buildings with earlier residential structures; the changes and alterations to individual buildings and the community in general; and its association with the early 19th century development of the Catholic Church in Maryland from the late 18th century.
Resources not specifically itemized in a list within NR nomination form.