Named after Admiral Daniel Ammen, a Union Civil War hero and author, the Ammendale Normal Institute was built on property purchased by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools from Ammen in 1880. They were looking for a more rural area to relocate their religious order that had rail access to both Baltimore and Washington D.C., and until that point had met in Calvert Hall in Baltimore. Construction of the main hall was completed and the wings were finished in 1888. Designed by architect Thomas C. Kennedy, the style was predominantly Victorian but incorporated Queen Anne, French Second Empire, and Italianate characteristics.
By the 1940s the school had amassed 400 acres and included a farm. The school, whose most noteworthy alumnus is actor Peter Boyle, closed in 1969 as enrollment dwindled and was subsequently used as a retirement home for retired Brothers. It’s unclear when it ceased to be used in this capacity but was vacant when it was ravaged by a fire in 1998. The remains of the school stood until 2006, when they were torn down for redevelopment.
My visit to Ammendale occurred shortly before the fire. Only the overgrown shell of the building remained, and while my photos of it are passable I’m sure that if I were able to return I could do much better. The horribly disfigured statue of someone who was presumably one of the La Salle Brothers gestured with a shattered hand to a listless boy, appearing more as an omen of bad things to come than an inspiring figure of hope. In the graveyard behind the building another statue of the Virgin Mary had been toppled over and shattered. With little information about the operation of the school, it seems to be yet another site that will fade into obscurity, despite having been built to serve for centuries.
Matthew Christopher MD Beltsville Jan 24, 2022 History