Mother Seton is a major presence in Emmitsburg

In northernmost Frederick County sits Emmitsburg, an unassuming little town perhaps best known for the role it has played in the American Roman Catholic Church.

Emmitsburg owes much to the Catholic refugees who came to the area looking for a place to practice their faith.


Father John DuBois, founder of St. Mary's College, invited recently widowed Elizabeth Ann Seton to move to the area and begin her life anew. Father DuBois also established a church and a replica of the French Grotto of Lourdes in the nearby hills.

Today, Emmitsburg is the home of the shrine honoring Mother Seton, the first American-born saint. Visitors make pilgrimages to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, established in the forest where Mother Seton walked and prayed.


People of all faiths visit here. Some stop on their way to Gettysburg, since Emmitsburg was a staging area, camp and hospital for Union troops fighting in that epic Civil War battle. Others pause as they head to Ski Liberty, just over the state line in Fairfield, Pa.

What to see

National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton (333 South Seton Ave., 301-447-6606): The shrine has a museum that tells Mother Seton's life story and offers religious services in the Basilica. Seton, recently widowed, came to Baltimore from New York in 1808 (the Mother Seton House is at 600 N. Paca St.) and moved to Emmitsburg with her children in 1809. She soon founded a religious sisterhood and a school. The American Daughters of Charity carry on Seton's vision today. The school, now called Mother Seton School, is the oldest parochial school in the United States. Seton died in 1821 and was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1963. The shrine was built in 1965, and Mother Seton's remains were then moved there. She was canonized in 1975.

The site includes the original stone house (circa 1750) where Seton founded her religious community as well as the house where she began her school. The shrine is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. every day but Monday. Religious services are offered on Sundays and other occasions. The shrine closes the last week in January and the first week in February.

The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes (off U.S. 15, 301-447-5318): The grotto is one of the oldest American replicas of the revered French Grotto of Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette is believed to have seen and talked with the Virgin Mary. On Sundays, Mass is celebrated along with other sacraments and blessings. The grotto is open every day from 7 a.m. to dusk. The Mass schedule varies; see

National Fallen Firefighters Memorial (U.S. Fire Administration, 16825 S. Seton Ave., 301-447-1000): Dedicated to the men and women "who have lost their lives in the very act of saving others," the memorial stands on the campus of the National Fire Academy. The long brick walk to the memorial commemorates some of the worst fires in U.S. history, the bricks inscribed with the names of firefighters who died and with messages from their comrades and families. Plaques bearing the names of firefighters killed since the memorial was established in 1981 encircle an eternal flame and bronze Maltese cross. Another plaque is inscribed with the names of firefighters killed Sept. 11, 2001. Visitors can seek comfort at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel.

The memorial and chapel are open to the public during daytime hours year-round. The academy draws firefighters and emergency management personnel from across the country who come to hone their skills.



Emmitsburg Antique Mall (1 Chesapeake Ave., 301-447-6471): If you want to collect it, you'll find it here. Dishes, patriotic memorabilia, books, toys, linens, jewelry, souvenir items, political buttons, maps, furniture, art -- the display is eclectic and endless. Antique doesn't mean ancient -- a Welcome Back Kotter puzzle and Jackie Collins paperbacks were among the items.

Callie's Collectibles (24 W. Main St., 301-447-6700): A good mix of antiques and reproductions with interesting finds like watercolors of the area by local artists, primitive decoys and well-loved furniture that spend much of its previous life with nearby farm families.

Black Cat General Store (2 W. Main St., 301-447-3370): The two large display windows overlooking the town square brim with antique toys and children's furniture as well as vintage advertising and other collectibles.

Where to eat

Carriage House Inn (200 South Seton Ave., 301-447-2366): Continental cuisine in a quaint historic setting. Lunch and dinner served seven days a week along with a brunch buffet Sundays.

Ott House Pub & Restaurant (5 W. Main St., 301-447-2625): Popular hangout for local folk, Mount Saint Mary's College students and firefighters attending the Fire Academy. Live music on weekends. Menu is pub grub at its finest.


St. Peter's Books and Cafe (101-2 Silo Hill Road, 301-447-1901): Stop and center yourself with a cappuccino, an herb tea or a smoothie. Rest in one of the comfy leather sofas or enjoy a chicken salad sandwich at one of the pretty tile-topped tables. This unassuming storefront offers welcome respite along with religious (but not necessarily overtly religious) books, gifts, cards and more.


Visit A Maryland Welcome Center sits just north of Emmitsburg, off U.S. 15.

Getting there

There are two ways to get to Emmitsburg from Baltimore. The most direct route is Interstate 695 to Interstate 795 North. Follow 795 to Route 140 toward Westminster. Follow 140 through Westminster and Taneytown into Frederick County. Emmitsburg will be the first community you come to shortly after you cross the county line.

If you're not a big fan of two-lane roads, take Interstate 70 west toward Frederick. Follow to U.S. 15 north toward Gettysburg to Route 140. Turn left off the exit and follow 140 into downtown Emmitsburg.


For more regional trips, see Page 40.