May 1 is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had a great devotion to St. Joseph, and this devotion is reflected in the name of the valley in which she settled and the dwellings in which she lived. In a letter to Antonio Filicchi, Mother Seton wrote:
” … You direct your letter to Baltimore, but we are fifty miles from it in the midst of woods and mountains … No wars or rumors of war here, but fields ripe with harvest; the mountain church St.Mary’s, the village church St. Joseph’s, and our spacious log-house, containing a private chapel (our Adored always there), is all our riches … ”
(Elizabeth Seton to Antonio Filicchi, June 24, 1811. Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, ed. Regina Bechtle, S.C. and Judith Metz, S.C. vol. 2, p.189, Letter #6.79)
The “spacious log house” refers to the structure known today as the White House, which Mother Seton named St. Joseph’s House. The Filicchi family helped finance its construction. Mother Seton and her community moved into the house on February 20, 1810, even though it was only partially completed. ON March 19, 1810, the first Mass was celebrated in the new chapel there. This building came to be called the White House after it was later faced with clapboard and painted white.
The White House was originally located east of the chapel which is now located at the United States National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute. The house was enlarged about 1826 and again about 1838. After the construction of other buildings, the decision was made to relocate it. In 1845 it was dismantled, board by board, and reassembled by John J. Shorb for $500. Mother Xavier Clark supervised the project and restored the house to the way it looked in Mother Seton’s lifetime. It was moved again in 1917 under the supervision of John T. Bramble of Baltimore because floor boards were rotting from being directly on the ground. A cellar was dug (as in Mother Seton’s time), and the house was again dismantled, reconstructed, and restored on a site about 50 ft. northwest where it now rests (Seton Collected Writings, v.2, p.92, footnote 4)