Our History

Historic Sketch of the Church in Mt. WashingtonFor over 150 years The Shrine of the Sacred Heart has been graced by God with the gift of ministering in Mount Washington. What changes our parish has witnessed!

When Archbishop Spaulding established the parish in 1867 the Civil War was still fresh in everyone’s minds. So many lives had been lost. So much raw hatred still flourished in the land. So much had been destroyed. The Sacred Heart of Jesus has always been a devotion centered on the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus. Jesus revealing His Sacred Heart is a sign of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. How appropriate in the aftermath of a horrendous war to name a church for the Sacred Heart! It was a time when the nation needed mercy and compassion and forgiveness.

Since those days our community has worked hard through its ministries of worship, learning and service to build up the reign of God and to bring peace to all. We have indeed been blessed in this work.

History of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart

In the Beginning...

In 1855, Reverend Elias Heiner, a minister of the German Reformed Church in Baltimore and a real estate developer Mr. George Gelbach, Jr.  saw the potential in a community north of Baltimore at the time known as “Mount Washington Rural Retreat.”  They negotiated to purchase 300 acres including a tract of land in the area which we now know as the John Hopkins property, formerly USF&G, and Mount Saint Agnes, across the street from our present church.  This purchase also included an area which is now known as the Baltimore Clayworks, the stone building on the North side of Smith Avenue adjacent to the parking lot of the light rail.  In 1855 Rev. Mr. Heiner built Saint John’s German Reformed Church and school on this site.  Shortly later he, with a number of his other colleagues, built an octagon building up the hill and formed a private boarding school for girls.  The schools and church prospered for only about five years.  The Civil War destroyed their plans for future growth and the private school was closed.  Saint John’s also ceased as a German Reformed Church and served as various Protestant denominations until 1867 when the property, church and school were sold to the Sisters of Mercy.

The Sister of Mercy reopened the school, a private school for girls, and named it Mount Saint Agnes College.   In the same year the Sisters deeded the one acre property at the bottom of the hill on which the church stood to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  Archbishop Spaulding directed that the existing church be opened to the public under the title of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Various Pastors served in the early years of the Shrine’s development:

Rev. Peter Tarro assumed the pastorate from 1908 until 1915.  Father Tarro, a man of vision, anticipating the growth of Mount Washington and the need for a larger Church. He negotiated to purchase the Boyden estate and home across the street which is the site of our present church and rectory. 

 

An Early Gothic Design

In 1915 Rev. Francis Craig succeeded Rev. Tarro.  He, too, was a man of great industry and vision and began planning for a new church on the newly acquired location.  He engaged the architectural firm of Baldwin and Pennington.  E. Francis Baldwin was a well known architect who designed countless buildings not only in Baltimore but in other eastern states as well. Baldwin attended Loyola High School from 1850-52 and never graduated from college. He lived in the Dixon Hill area of Mt. Washington from 1907 to his death in 1916. Baldwin served as head architect to the B & O Railroad where he designed numerous buildings, including the Mt. Royal Station now owned by MICA.

The literature of the day described our new Church as “early Gothic; an exact copy of Saint Giles Church, the celebrated church at Stokes-Poges, Buckinghamshire England where the Poet Thomas Gray wrote his “Elegy in a Country Church Yard.” Unfortunately, Mr. Baldwin died before the church was completed and his funeral was held in the old church in the shadow of his final masterpiece.

The old church property was sold back to the Sisters of Mercy around this time and they used it as their Motherhouse. The old school was torn down but the Church was later moved to its present site at Loyola University. The new church was officially opened and dedicated on June 24, 1917 with a Solemn High Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gibbons. More than a thousand people crowded into the Church and hundreds more assembled outside. Shortly afterward the stained glass windows were installed. These were done by New York artisans from John Morgan and Sons Inc. The stained glass window above the main altar, appropriately depicts Jesus revealing His Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque. The artisans incorporated into the winged cherubs the faces of some of the children of the parish. The cost of our new Church was $140,000.00 and the debt was retired in eight years.

The Shrine of the Sacred Heart was solemnly consecrated June 21, 1915. It was noted in an article of the Baltimore Catholic Review, that on July 2, 3, and 4 the ninth annual Lawn Fete will be held on the grounds of the old church. Fortunate ticket holders will have a chance to win a Five Passenger Ford Touring Car, a mahogany Pathe Victrola, a Rex Graphophone, 3 gold watches, one each night, a handsome porch hammock, Statues of the Sacred Heart, St. Anthony, and St. Joseph, etc. used in the old Church, a Ten Dollar Gold Piece and many other attractive prizes.

The former school was relocated in the Undercroft of the main body of the church. There were four classrooms, and assembly area, and a teachers room under the main body of the church. Two grades were assigned to each room. There are still proud parishioners who remember attending classes in the Undercroft.

 

The 1950's to Now

Fr. Craig died in 1928 and was succeeded by Msgr. Louis Stickney, a nephew of Rev. DeWulf, a former pastor.  Msgr. Stickney served us from 1928 till his death in 1957.  He, too, hosted annual lawn fetes, dinners and carnivals.  These were suspended when World War II broke out. He has the distinction of the being our longest serving pastor.  It was under his watch that plans were implemented to build the new school. 

One of his assistants, Rev. Francis Linn served as parish administrator till June of 1959.  He continued to oversee the planning and construction of the new school.  Fr. Linn was well known for his wit and gift for writing poetry.  He could draft a poem for almost any occasion.  Old Church Interior

In 1974 Rev. E. Melville Taylor, now a Monsignor, returned to us as pastor from 1974 till his retirement in 1989. He was a charming person known for his love of music and his speaking eloquence.  He was once described by a fellow priest as having the wit of an Irishman and the eloquence of an Englishman. Under Msgr. Taylor, Mr. Thomas Hetrick served for 13 years as Organist and Choirmaster of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. Msgr. Taylor went on to his eternal reward in 1997. Rev. John Lippold succeeded Msgr. Taylor as administrator in 1989 and resigned the same year because of ill health.

In 1989, Rev. Msgr. Nicholas Amato came to serve as our pastor. Including some other alterations to the interior of the church, Msgr. Amato was responsible for installing the lift-elevator. His greatest legacy is the installation of a 27 Rank Wicks Pipe Organ in the gallery which replaced the humble original Estey organ.  Funds for the instrument were largely given by the late Mrs. Dorothy Bunting, a longtime generous benefactor of the Shine. Msgr. Amato also completed renovations to the Parish Rectory to include new office space for the ever growing staff.

Rev. Msgr. Richard E. Cramblitt, undertook, with vigorous spirit, a number of large projects upon his arrival here in 1995. The first of these projects was to restore the stained glass windows of the parish church. Then, to honor the legacy of Catholic Education by the Sisters of Mercy at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart School, Msgr. Cramblitt lead the parish through the design and construction of the William Meyer Wing of the school, including a new hall dedicated to the memory of beloved pastor Rev. Msgr. E. Melville Taylor. For the first time since 1917, the school was contained in one building.

Under Msgr. Cramblitt’s pastorate, Deacon Mark Soloski, a longtime parishioner was ordained and became the first assigned Deacon. Vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and lay ministry are a continued legacy and point of pride for the people of the Shrine.

The legacy of 150+ years is difficult to contain in such a small space, and the story cannot be told entirely by accounts of its pastors, beautiful buildings and origin. The legacy of the past pervades our present. This present is marked by a multicultural parish, welcoming families from all over the world. We are blessed to have families who have been members here for several generations and who can tell the stories of this parish and neighborhood. We are all united by our faith in Jesus Christ and our communion in the Roman Catholic Church. We are all striving to continue the traditions of our forbearers in faith and to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, in this, our Shrine, the “Heart of Mt. Washington.”

The Shrine's Pastors: 1867 to Present

  • Rev. James Duggan (1867-1870) - resided at St. Mary’s Govans
  • Rev. Theodore D. Meade (1870-1878) - First Resident Pastor
  • Rev. Matthias P. Fenne (1878-1885, 1887-1889) - Builds the old Stone Rectory in 1883; Parish becomes independent of St Mary’s Govans
  • Rev. Francis P. Mackall (1886) - Interim for Fr. Fenne for one year
  • Rt. Rev. Msgr. Cornelius F. Thomas (1889-1891)
  • Rev. Desiderius C. DeWulf (1891-1892)
  • Rev. James M. Connelly (1892-1908)
  • Rev. Peter B. Tarro (1908-1915) - Acquires site of new church and rectory; Starts plans for new church.
  • Rev. Francis E. Craig (1915-1928) - Builds new church, Pastor during Consecration of the Church
  • Rt. Rev. Msgr. Louis R. Stickney (1928-1957) - Completes plans for new school
  • Rev. Timothy Mullen (1958-1974) - Builds new school
  • Rt. Rev. Msgr. E. Melville Taylor (1975-1989)
  • Rev. Msgr. Nicholas Amato (1990-1995) - Installs new organ and piano in church; Renovates rectory
  • Rev. Msgr. Richard E. Cramblitt (1995-2012) - Adds an addition to the school; Restores stained glass windows
  • Rev. William A. Au, Ph. D., (2012 - Present)

The Coat of Arms of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart

Blazon

Shrine of the Sacred Heart Coat of Arms(In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image.)

Azure, upon a cross bottony Or an octagon, Argent charged with a Sacred Heart Gules, barbed of the second and enflamed of the last; issuant from the base three mountains of the third charged with two barlets below three stars all of the last.

 

Significance

In the years following the establishment of the Northern Central Railroad, to the route between Baltimore and the Great Lakes at Rochester, New York, a summer colony grew up in an area outside Baltimore that came to be known as Mount Washington. In order to take advantage of the breezes of rural Maryland, regardless of their direction, the community contained many octagonal buildings and the area became known for these unusual structures.

Utilizing the heritage of the region, upon a silver (white) octagon is placed the classic representation of the Most Sacred Heart, a red heart enwrapped by gold thorns and surmounted by red flames, titular of the Shrine in this Baltimore neighborhood. The octagon is placed on a golden cross bottony (each arm terminates in what appears to be a cluster of three balls) which is taken from the arms of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, of which the Shrine is a part. All of these charges are placed above a base that is composed of three mountains that are charged with the three red stars and the two red barlets which are the arms of General George Washington, first President of the United States, for whom the region of Mount Washington is named.

The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Parish School

In 1855 Rev. Mr. Heiner built Saint John’s German Reformed Church and school in Mt. Washington. Shortly later he, with a number of his other colleagues, built an octagon building up the hill and formed a private boarding school for girls.  The schools and church prospered for only about five years.  The Civil War destroyed their plans for future growth and the private school was closed. Sacred Heart School 1956

In 1867 the property, church and school were sold to the Sisters of Mercy.  The Sister of Mercy reopened the school, a private school for girls, and named it Mount Saint Agnes College.   Around 1917 the old school was torn down, and was relocated in the Undercroft of the main body of the newly built Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church.  There were four classrooms, an assembly area, and a teachers room.  Two grades were assigned to each room. There are still proud parishioners who remember attending classes in the Undercroft.

Under Rev. Timothy Mullen, who served from 1958-1974, the new Shrine of the Sacred Heart School was completed. The cornerstone of the new school was laid by Bishop Jerome Sebastian in November of 1958, and in May of 1959 the new school was dedicated by Archbishop Francis Keough.

Msgr. Cramblitt lead the parish through the design and construction of the William Meyer Wing of the School, including a new hall dedicated to the memory of beloved pastor Rev. Msgr. E. Melville Taylor. The School Wing was dedicated in September of 2003 by William Cardinal Keeler.  For the first time since 1917, the school was contained in one building.

In 2010, the Archdiocese of Baltimore closed many of the city's beloved Catholic schools, including the Shrine of the Sacred Heart School.  That same year, the city's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien announced that the school building would be leased to the growing Mount Washington Elementary School to move some grades into the building.  The city has maintained this lease currently as the city and church share the community space.