The Best College Castles

Castle Turret
Michael Interisano / Design Pics / Perspectives / Getty Images

High towers, parapets, battlements, opulent rooms—these buildings have it all. You can take classes, attend special events or conferences, and even, in some cases, sleep in them. These are our top picks for colleges with campus castles; if you’re going to move away from mom and dad, you might as well do it as majestically as possible, right? Saddle your noble steed, and pack up your jewels, cloak, and favorite jester—just maybe leave your sword and hunting hounds at home (unless, of course, you're at one of these pet-friendly colleges).

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Kansas State University's Nichols Hall

Nichols Hall at Kansas State University. Cole & Vanessa Hoosler / Flickr

Nichols Hall, on the campus of Kansas State University, isn’t messing around. This is your fortress castle, your sturdy, no-nonsense, down-to-earth and down-to-business castle. Today, it hosts the Communication Studies, Theatre, Dance, and Computing/Information departments, but—built in 1911—it originally housed the P.E. and military science departments, complete with a pool in the basement. In 1968, a massive fire (arson, rumored to be in protest of America’s presence in Vietnam) completely gutted the inside; the outer walls remained undamaged.

After almost being torn down, the hall was restored and rebuilt in 1986. Tenacious but triumphant, this castle features impressive battlements, lots of square towers, and rigid symmetry. All it needs now are those heralds with the really long trumpets, their bright banners unfurled, blasting a sunrise fanfare across the prairies. Given that K-State is home to six concert ensembles including a brass ensemble, that might just be a possibility.

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The Castle at Boston University

Boston University Castle
Boston University Castle. Photo Credit: Katie Doyle

The Boston University Castle, also just called “The Castle,” was completed in 1915, and is a “Tudor Revival” mansion (And you know something’s legit when it’s got “Tudor” in its name). Built for William Lindsey—who made his fortune in the Boer War—as a private residence, The Castle changed hands a few times before being donated to Boston University in 1939. Now, it serves as a venue for concerts, receptions, and special events, with the basement level pub open to students and staff. And, if that’s not enough, it also makes an appearance in the film 21. Featuring several gables, bay windows, balconies, climbing ivy, flowering trees out front, and the hint of some battlements, this castle is everything Queen Elizabeth I was: regal, beautiful, a bit intimidating, determined, solid but graceful, and able to command a vast imperial armada. Ok, maybe not that last one, although you can see the Boston University crew team rowing down the Charles River from the Castle windows.  

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The Steinheim at Alfred University

The Steinheim at Alfred University
The Steinheim at Alfred University. Allen Grove

Proving that castles don’t have to be large to be impressive, Alfred University’s Steinheim building was built with over 8,000 different rock specimens. Originally designed as a private residence back in the 1870s—who doesn’t want to live in a castle?—the Steinheim (German for “stone house”) has also been a natural history museum, space for classrooms, studios for the university’s radio station, and now serves as the Career Development Center. (Also good for you Harry Potter or Game of Thrones fans.) Channel your inner Baron or Baroness as you wait for an appointment with a career counselor, brooding over your wintry kingdom, Wagner’s Tannhäuser blasting on your iPod.

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Main Building at Rosemont College

Rosemont College Main Building
Rosemont College Main Building. RaubDaub / Flickr

Rosemont College’s “Main Building” was originally the home of Joseph Sinnott—a prosperous owner of large rye distillery—and his family, until the early 1920s. Now, this spacious building houses some of Rosemont’s administrative offices. Also known as “Rathalla” (Gaelic for “home of the chieftain upon the highest hill”) this castle is more than a stone fortress. Ornate details along the eaves, dormers, gables, turrets, balconies, cupolas—you name it, this castle has it. Pace its grounds at night, though, (maybe in early November, with a heavy cloak, lantern, and your trusty hounds?) and you just might stumble across the ghost of a Gaelic Viscount, out for treasure and revenge.

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Wesleyan Hall at the University of North Alabama

Wesleyan Hall at the University of North Alabama
Wesleyan Hall at the University of North Alabama. Burkeanwhig / Wikimedia Commons

Here’s one for you southern princes and princesses: University of North Alabama’s Wesleyan Hall. This castle is full of history, and is pretty stunning-looking, to boot. Completed in 1856, this castle boasts impressive octagonal turrets that flank the front entrance and outside corners. In a very clean Gothic-revival style, Wesleyan Hall stands with an ordered symmetry, with tall windows and beautiful brick-work. Back in the day, it housed both Confederate and Union soldiers, including William Tecumseh Sherman and John Bell Hood. Now, it is home to the Geography, Foreign Language, and Psychology departments, as well as offices for the Dean of Arts and Sciences. And, the tidy front lawn looks like it would be perfect for some late afternoon lounging—or maybe a picnic? Gold plates and jeweled goblets optional.

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Usen Castle at Brandeis University

Usen Castle at Brandeis University
Usen Castle at Brandeis University. Photo Credit: Allen Grove

Brandeis University’s Usen Castle is one of the finest because you can actually live there. Yeah, you read that right. You can live. In. A. Castle. Offering a range of room sizes and styles, Usen also hosts administrative offices and a coffeehouse. It was originally a part of the Middlesex College of Medicine and Surgery; the founders of Brandeis acquired the campus in 1945 when Middlesex College closed. Built in the Norman style, Usen Castle has everything a castle should: turrets, towers, parapets, and even climbing ivy. (And it’s another good one for you Game of Thrones fans). Start packing your tapestries, four poster beds, and hire a minstrel; you’re living like royalty now. Oh, and you should probably go to class every so often, too.

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Reid Hall at Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College
Manhattanville College. Meg Stewart / Flickr

Reid Hall—located on the campus of Manhattanville College—is the perfect combination of elegance and ruggedness. It’s all right angles and hefty stonework, but with touches of regal delicacy that make it more than the sum of its parts. The arched windows, the patios and porches, the beautiful grounds, the exquisite interior: these make this castle stand out from the crowd. Built in 1892 as a private dwelling, Reid Hall (named for Whitelaw Reid, its first inhabitant) was purchased by Manhattanville College in 1951 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Now, lords and ladies, you are able to rent out this gorgeous space for special events, conferences, and weddings. We’re talking marble staircases, stained glass windows, tapestries, chandeliers—the works. (Note: suits of armor and bear-skin rugs not included.)

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Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College

Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College
Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College. Notermote / Wikimedia Commons

The Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College isn’t your average, everyday castle. With its Gothic-influenced architecture (buttresses, battlements, pinnacles, and all) this library is like Anne Hathaway’s Mia Thermopolis after her makeover in The Princess Diaries. Elegant. Classy. Royal. We’re talking stained glass windows, tapestries, stone carvings, and quotations in Latin. Completed in 1905 as a memorial to Frederick Thompson, the library has gone through a few expansions and updates over the years. Its main reading room is an absolute masterpiece of architecture and beauty. And, if you’re still not impressed, it houses over 1 million books, including special collections, archives, and a rare books room. Haul your textbooks over there on a rainy Sunday in March; you might be cramming for a Physics or Calculus exam, but by god, you’ll be doing it in style.

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The Castle at Felician College

Iviswold Castle at Felician College
Iviswold Castle at Felician College. Rhvanwinkle / Wikimedia Commons

The Castle at Felician College has a history almost as grand as the old fairy tales themselves. Built in 1869 as a simple two-story home, Hill House (as it was originally named) passed through many owners, including a bank and Farleigh Dickinson University. One of the owners installed a pool on the second floor. The building was expanded and modified with each owner until it was purchased by Felician College in 1997. A massive renovation process began with a focus on restoring the building to its original glory and style. During this process, renovators discovered hidden stained glass windows, ebony molding, domed ceilings, wall sculptures, and a dumb-waiter. This red-roofed, country estate now hosts the Student Center, with plans for a chapel and office space. Now that’s what you call a “happily ever after.”

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Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University

Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University
Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University. Five Furlongs / Flickr

Arcadia University’s Grey Towers Castle is basically the standard against which all other college castles are based. Just look at it—sweeping outdoor staircases, stout towers, detailed stonework, parapets, battlements (proper battlements!), arched doorways, and what looks to be about seven or eight chimneys. Designed after Alnwick Castle, a medieval home for the Dukes of Northumberland, Grey Towers was completed in the early 20th century. Originally the home of William Welsh Harrison, owner of a sugar refinery, the castle was purchased by Arcadia in 1929. It now serves as administrative offices, and, you guessed it, student housing. Extra points go to Grey Towers for interior balconies, tapestries, ceilings with painted scenes, caryatids, secret passages. Seriously, what else could you want?

More on the Colleges Featured Here

You can click on the links throughout the article for more information on each school, but here's a quick overview of some of the key stats. You'll see that admissions standards vary widely from highly selective Vassar College to Kansas State University, a school that admits nearly all applicants. They also vary greatly in size from Rosemont College with under 1,000 students to Boston University with more than 33,000.

Ten Colleges with Amazing Castles
School Type Enrollment Admit Rate Mid 50% SAT Mid 50% ACT
Alfred University Private 2,382 62 percent 940-1180 19-26
Arcadia University Private 3,463 66 percent 1030-1260 21-28
Boston University Private 33,720 19 percent 1340-1510 30-34
Brandeis University Private 5,825 30 percent 1350-1520 30-33
Felician University Private 2,262 86 percent 900-1080 15-20
Kansas State University Public 21,719 95 percent optional optional
Manhattanville College Private 2,535 90 percent optional optional
Rosemont College Private 902 92 percent 980-1130 16-22
University of North Alabama Public 7,702 89 percent 1015-1180 20-26
Vassar College Private 2,439 24 percent 1370-1520 31-34
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Your Citation
Wager, Liz. "The Best College Castles." ThoughtCo, Apr. 30, 2021, Wager, Liz. (2021, April 30). The Best College Castles. Retrieved from Wager, Liz. "The Best College Castles." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).