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Forgotten Art in Patapsco

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

December 3, 2020 | 2:34pm EST

Sometimes art can be forgotten and left to fall into ruin over time without the admiration of onlookers. I love to find that forgotten art. I am interested in urban exploration, which is the act of exploring manmade structures such as abandoned buildings. Most of these places are illegal to explore because they’re either property of the government or they’re privately owned. Urban exploration is very popular in photography and film and I have seen these types of places used as settings especially in the horror genre. From an artist’s perspective, I love to see how creative people have made their mark in these places. Sometimes artists leave their names or pictures on the crumbling stones but whatever they put there has a story to it.

A little less than an hour drive away from Washington DC is a place called Patapsco Valley State Park. It’s located near Ellicott City, Maryland, which in itself is beautiful and historic. Patapsco is home to some of the coolest forgotten art and legal urban exploration opportunities that I’ve found so far in the DMV area. I’ve been here a couple of times and wanted to share some of my favorite spots that I’ve found with everyone at AU. Urban exploration can be dangerous but Patapsco is a good place to check out because it’s fairly accessible with ramps and trails. I personally made my friends hike up the hidden staircases and through the overgrowth but that isn’t required. It just added to the adventurous experience.

My friends didn’t know about the abandoned buildings in Patapsco so I was excited to show them around. There is a designated spray painting wall, an abandoned decorated silo, a railway tunnel, several old structures, and hidden staircases all dispersed throughout the park. The place I was most excited to show them was the hidden chapel at the top of the mountain above the train tracks.

It used to be a place called St. Mary’s College but was abandoned and fell into decay. When I found this place the first time years ago, there was an enormous metal cross in the chapel, which has since been removed and I wasn’t able to locate it anywhere during my trip back.

When we went up to the chapel, I was amazed to see that someone had painted the entire structure for a wedding. I have no idea what the markings or dragons mean and I haven’t found much information about it online. I know nothing about the artist or the backstory other than from what I was able to decipher on the painted altar. It felt like I had stepped into a world where H.P. Lovecraft and The Elder Scrolls had crossed over. The mystery of this place was awe inspiring. I love romance and I can’t imagine how much time, energy, and love went into painting all of this for someone else. It was so special to walk around the chapel and observe all of the small details that someone took hours of devotion to create.

Old places can lead to new inspiration. I love how the ruins of Patapsco have served as canvases for so many incredible artists. As far as I know, the St. Mary’s College chapel structure is still standing in Patapsco along with some incredible other places in the park. As long as you stay respectful and safe, Patapsco is an awesome place to go on an adventure with friends. It is a fun hike with inspiring places to photograph and explore. Who knows what other forgotten art you might come across!

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