Maryknoll Seminary, Ossining, NY

One of my favorite buildings in the Hudson Valley is the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Seminary which is located on a hilltop high above the Hudson River in Ossining (Bing Aerial).

According to American Architecture, Westchester County, New York by Frank Sanchis, architects Charles Maginnis and Timothy Walsh, influential and prolific designers of churches and religious buildings, designed the enormous fieldstone seminary. Construction began in 1920 and continued through the completion of the last section of the building, a chapel, in 1956.

Maryknoll (“Mary’s Knoll”) is actually a name shared by three organizations of the Catholic Church: the Fathers and Brothers, who occupy the main building (shown here) west of Ryder Road; the Sisters, who have the large building east of Ryder Road (Bing Aerial); and the Lay Missioners, who occupied until recently a nearby house (Bing Aerial).

The Maryknoll organization trains young men for service in foreign missions. The group formed in 1911, and by 1918 three missionaries served in China. Soon work spread to include Korea and, in the 1940s, Latin America and Africa.

Maginnis and Walsh’s choice of architecture reflects Maryknoll’s service in China. Oriental motifs are expressed in the roof and tower. The grounds and seminary building are open to the public at certain hours. Inside the seminary, visitors can peruse a small display of artifacts and photographs related to the Ossining sites, a museum devoted to the work of missionaries, and a gift shop (which I did not locate on my recent brief visit.)

In his landmark 1939 book The Hudson, Carl Carmer claimed that the “Catholic Church owns more land on the shores of the Hudson than any other religious organization and houses tens of thousands of its votaries” in its riverfront institutions. I’d like to know where those numbers stand today, as so many churches, monasteries, religious schools and organizations have closed their doors in the last 30 or 40 years. Every so often, there is a newspaper article about the “dwindling band of brothers,” or an article about declining revenue and the reduction in the number of countries where missions are located.

Maryknoll under construction.

I hope Maryknoll continues for many years to stay above it all and keep this grand old building alive. Should they ever cease to operate in Ossining, it would be terrible for another perfectly good building to sit empty for a few years and then be deemed “too far gone” so that it could be demolished to make way for an all-new development (see: Briarcliff Lodge). On the flip side, an old Catholic campus at Tarrytown was rescued when a language school for foreign students took over the former Marymount College. And more recently, the Bruderhof has acquired the former Mt. St. Alphonsus Retreat Center in Ulster County.

All photographs were taken January 20, 2012.

For a few minutes, it was like I was back in Sicily, watching the afternoon ritual of birds swarming the church towers.

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32 Responses to Maryknoll Seminary, Ossining, NY

  1. Peggy Spell says:

    Thanks for those pictures. My great uncle was a Maryknoll Missionary. He became a Bishop in Tanzania. I have never been to Ossing. Other members of my family have. I might have been there when I was too young to remember. We are from Hartford Ct. I now live in Charleston SC

  2. Bern says:

    Rob, great pix!
    I work for the Fathers and never get tired of the beautiful historical grounds.
    Sorry you missed the Gift Shop: it’s got some wonderful items from around the world, plus cards and books. It’s located on the right side of the main corridor in the photo 5 up from the end of the post. The sign is not out so I guess it was closed when you where there.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thank you! I do plan to return and spend more time photographing Maryknoll. I’ll make sure to better time my visit (it was late in the day) and see the shop.

      -Rob

  3. Agnes Anderson says:

    The pictures posted trully are beautiful !!! Keep up the good work .

  4. TERRY says:

    MY GOOD FRIEND, FR. JACK HALBERT, WAS HERE FOR A LONG TIME AND I NEVER DID GET TO SEE THE PLACE. AFTER LOOKING AT THESE PICTURES I KNOW WHY HE LOVED IT SO….WONDERFUL PHOTOS.

  5. Scott Craven says:

    Rob
    Nice work as usual, I grew up in the area and as kids we would take a break from soccer and go to the old farmhouse just to the west and use their hand operated pump for water, but you always had to leave a cup filled with water on the pump when you were done so the next person could prime it. There was a big shootout up there in 64 when they tried to rob the post office, supposedly there is an actual film of it.
    SC

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thanks Scott! I didn’t know about the old farmhouse, I gather it is gone now? I don’t see it int he aerial photos. I just looked up that robbery on the New York Times and there are a couple of articles. Can’t see them however as the Westchester Library System cancelled their Proquest account for library patrons to view the Times for free. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  6. Chris McHugh says:

    We would love to carry your blog on Patch.com. Please shoot me an email.

  7. Susan Kaup Kelley, Ed.d., S.T.L. says:

    Your photographs are lovely, especially the photographs of architectural detail. I am writing a book on Maginnis and TRULY APPRECIATE the work you show us on these pages. I would love to include some of your photos in the book! If this is all right with you, perhaps you would let me know how we would go about it!

    CDM’s connection to Maryknoll through his partner’s brother gives special meaning to the buildings in NY and CA. Congratulations in capturing the detailed care which shows this to us!

  8. We are a print magazine that is reader-contributed content. We have a submission for our Fall issue about the Maryknolls. Researching images we came across your site, and would very much like to use many of the images for the article. If you are interested please contact me at your earliest.

    Warmly,
    Cher

  9. MaryLee T. Bradley says:

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures. The first picture moved me the most for I took me back to the weekend I was there in the ’50s for my uncle’s ordination. He too was sent to what was then known as British East Africa, Tanganyika, today Tanzania. Whenever I cross the Tappan Zee Bridge going north, I try to see if I can see Maryknoll.

  10. Mary Fischetti says:

    I have some photos from the mid-fifties when my dad was helping to build something there at the seminary. Would anyone want them? I just need to know where to send them.

  11. Pingback: The Spiritual Pilgrimage: A Reflection « Reality and Illusions

  12. Nancy DeVries says:

    Beautiful photos. I have sailed on the Hudson River, below Ossining, and know first hand how lovely the area truly is. Thanks for sharing your vision from the shoreside. I came upon your side, because I was researching Maryknolls after having visited with some of the fathers in their respective cities in southeast Asia. These were memorable evenings with Fr. Galvin in Hongkong, Fr. O’Brien in Hanoi, Fr. Kofski in Myanmar and Fr. Thaler in Kathmandu. I do hope to visit the main headquarters in 2013.

  13. Pam Brucker says:

    Thank you so much for these wonderful pictures. I am a nurse and had the honor of caring for Father Tom Morris in 1967 in Oak Park Illinois. He did however have cancer and traveled back home to New York to a cancer hospital there. He was so helpful to me in my spiritual walk and invited me to Maryknoll in Glen Ellyn Illinois where he had been teaching. I recently happened to find an old encouraging letter that he had written to me WAY back in 1967, thus brought me to this website to learn more about Maryknoll. Is there a cemetary there, in New York where Father Morris is buried? Again, thank you so much.
    Pam

  14. Agnes Romlein says:

    Taught by Maryknoll sisters and priest at Transfiguration in NYC. Helped out in the rectory after school, Saturdays & Sundays… loved all the priests & nuns I knew through many years. Been to Maryknoll for ordinations, mission assignments and funerals.
    Going back this week to meet with a priest I have not seen in 58 years. I was a little girl & he was a newly ordained priest sent to our parish.

    the grounds and buildings are magnificent :)

  15. Rich Thurston says:

    Terrific photographic journey. My sister’s late husband was from the Perna family, whose firm, Louis Perna and Sons, did the stonework for the Seminary in the ’20′s and ’30′s, as well as for many other massive buildings in the Northeast, including a dormitory at Georgetown University and the St. Bernardinus complex in Baltimore. I just recently discovered a beautiful old promotional booklet (which term doesn’t do the production quality justice) of theirs which includes a full-page picture of the building. I am having the pages scanned and would be glad to send the relevant one to anyone who wants it.

  16. Susan Zucconi says:

    Thanks so much for the truly lovely pictures of Maryknoll. My husbands family lived on Pines Bridge Road and his mother used to go every Sunday and visit the chapel to pray in the afternoons. This was her quiet time and after visiting there I can understand why.
    I have been reading the book The Grunt Padre. It depicts the life of
    Father Vincent Capadonna who was a Maryknoll priest who served and died in the Vietnam war. He lived and died as a missionary to the men he served in the Marines. Thanks, again your pictures touched my heart.

  17. MaryEllen B. says:

    Loved your pictures. My beloved uncle, Father Joseph Halpin, just retired to the Motherhouse after 62 years in Guatemala. We visited him in Guatemala and now look forward to visiting him back at Maryknoll. Your pictures are inviting images for our St. Louis family.

  18. Patricia Fennessey Cala says:

    I have been to Maryknoll at least once. Once for the wake of Father Raymond Hanrihan, I think that was his name. He was the nephew of my grand aunt. Now that could have been the name of another priest in the family from Ireland. Father Served in China. His final visit to Maryknoww was where his wake was held, in about 1951 to 1955.
    My family lived in Yonkers and would pass Maryknoll often on Broadway on the way to Albany.
    I have a friend at Church, He has a Ph D in Japanese and is doing PG at Stanford, Palo Alto, CA. He also studies at Berkley, CA. He has been searching for a position. Could you use a Jananese teacher? He has been looking for an administrative position.
    He is from the South East of the US and is a convert to Catholicism, and attends the Latin Mass and takes up the hosts. We are in the St. Thomas Parish, St. Thomas Church, in the diocese of San Jose, CA. With Love and Good Wishes, Patricia Fennessey Cala. Palo Alto, CA 94303

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