Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

A Look at the Architecture of Emmitsburg

Ernest R. Shriver

The architectural appearance of Emmitsburg can be easily described with one word; it is basically honest. Not too many towns and villages can make this claim anymore. When we say honest, it is to say the houses have not changed or in some cases changed very little since the early 1800's. Today, seven generations later, Emmitsburg appears much as it did then. Most of Emmitsburg s original architecture is still intact. West Main Street as far west as the original Emmit House Hotel, now an apartment building, is a good example of the unspoiled original architecture.

Part of the character of the town is the location of the homes directly on the front walks and placed very closely together, and in many cases, adjoined by a common wall. This feature can be seen today in small rural villages in Germany and England that are several hundred years old.

The Square

The center square of Emmitsburg is our central architectural feature. It resembles very closely the style of early German villages, complete with central foundation. The homes on the north and south side of the square have an equal setback from Main Street creating the open square that our neighboring towns do not have. Thurmont, Taneytown and even Frederick do not have squares. This feature gives Emmitsburg an extra bit of old world charm and character. (Note: Read more about the Fountain that once stood in the middle of the square.)

Early 1800 s Georgian & Federal Brick Houses

The early nineteenth century homes are all still pretty much of the same architectural style, Georgian and Federal. Although many of Emmitsburg s settlers were German, the homes exhibit an English influence. Examples of the Georgian style are: the Adams house at 104 West Main Street, the Reformed Church Parsonage at 220 West Main Street, the Laws house at 115 East Main Street and the Kerrigan house at 100 East Main Street.

One will notice that Georgian style houses, like the one pictured, all have five windows on the second floor (or five bay, most of the remaining houses in town are three bay) and a door exactly centered under the middle window of the second floor. These Georgian style homes are perfectly symmetrical, adding extra style and charm to the town.

The Federal style homes are the most numerous in town. The majority are three bay with the front door at the left or right side on the first floor; rarely in the center because they are for the most part side-hall entrance houses. The Georgian houses mentioned above are all center-hall entrance houses. The Wilson Funeral Home at 210 West Main Street is an example of the three bay, side-hall entrance style.

Windows and Doors

A closer look at the architecture of Emmitsburg will reveal some of the early features such as the small pane windows, 6 over 6 and, in three instances, 12 over 8. The latter can be seen at 219, 221, and 305 West Main Street. The 12 over 8s are a feature of the 18th century style, but it is believed that these above-mentioned houses are not quite that old. They are probably early nineteenth century. Another interesting feature is the fanlight above the front door of the funeral home. Also notice that the door of the funeral home is paneled in the Cross and Bible style.

Log Houses

Not only are many of the houses of Emmitsburg build of brick and frame, but there are a large number of log houses. Naturally the logs are not visible because they are now covered by frame, shingle and aluminum siding. Standing and occupied today in 1976 on West Main Street alone are at least 14 log houses. Several are on East Main Street and a couple are on North Seton Avenue. In order to identify the approximately 20 log houses in town, look first for the easiest sign; extremely deep window and door sills. Although the log houses appear to be just frame, the window and door sills of a frame house will be much shallower than those of the frame-covered log house. Pictured here is the log house of Mrs. Adelsberger on West Main Street.

Do not always look for small-paned windows as a sign of an old log house; many have been replaced with modern large paned windows; 2 over 2 or 1 over 1. However, there are a few cases where only the first floor small paned windows have been replaced, resulting in large windows on the first floor and small ones on the second floor. Examples of this interesting architectural feature are to be found at 115 West Main Street and at 500 West Main Street. Both of these houses appear to be frame, but they are really log houses covered with frame siding. They each have later additions to the rear; in the case of 115 West Main Street, the addition is brick.

Stone Buildings

There is very little stone construction in Emmitsburg. Only the Lutheran Church of 1797, the "brick" house at 103 East Main Street and two parts of the building at the corner of East Main Street and Federal Avenue are of stone. The "brick" house at 103 East Main Street is actually native field stone on three sides with a brick front.

Victorian Structures

Not all of the notable architecture is early nineteenth century. On the square there are several excellent example of Victorian architecture. The present V.F.W. Building and the three story building adjacent to it on West Main Street are Victorian. These two buildings are characterized by very decorative brickwork, steep spires or steeple-like roof projections, and curved arches above the windows.


Walking is really the only way to notice the architectural features of the town. As one walks up West Main street, some of the original brick walks come into view several with the herringbone design. These brick walks add to the charm and character of the town.

Wrought Iron

Also noticeable, particularly in the vicinity of the former Emmitt House Hotel and just beyond, is the wrought iron fencing and railing. The very decorative wrought iron of the houses on that part of West Main Street was made right here in Emmitsburg. The Frailey Foundary produced wrought iron fence, railings and other cast iron products, including stoves. This wrought iron enhances nearly half a dozen houses.

There are also a couple of horse hitching posts on West Main Street. There is one at 700 West Main Street and another directly across the street in front of the former Frailey home. These are reminder of another era; the slower-paced horse and buggy days.


The churches of Emmitsburg have a particularly strong architectural influence upon the town. They each must be seen to be appreciated. Their size and separate styles have a pleasing effect, but when looking at the town from afar it is the church steeples that really contribute to the village character of Emmitsburg. The tree-lined streets compliment the architecture; without the trees part of the town's charm is lost.

Emmitsburg has retained its rural village appearance for two centuries. Complimenting the town are the two college campuses and the mountain which create a very satisfactory environment in which to live and a pleasing look worth keeping.

Have your own stories of Homes in Emmitsburg?
If so, e-mail them to us at history@emmitsburg.net