Manhattanville College is situated on a 100 acre piece of land in the suburbs of Westchester County. Only 30 minutes from New York City, the vibe on campus is very diverse just like the city itself. However, even with the different types of people that reside on this campus, one opinion is always the same: “The castle is the best thing we have here, although I’m not quite sure what goes on in there,” says Chelsea DeMaria, a sophomore at Manhattanville sharing a similar opinion to that of her fellow classmates.
Reid Hall, also known as “the Castle,” stands as the tallest building on campus resting at the top of the hill. During foggy days it almost has sort of a Hogwarts feel which makes students like DeMaria love the castle. She begins reminiscing on her first visit to Manhattanville for open house back in 2010. “It was dark and cloudy and the castle looked so creepy but I loved it!”
Most students share the same views as DeMaria; they just wish they got to go into it more often. “Sometimes I wish that they could just let it be a more student based building,” says a sarcastic Rebecca McClintock, who as a junior at Manhattanville has had her share of bad moments in the Castle. “The only time we can go inside is when we’re about to be let down by financial aid or student accounts.” McClintock remembers back to her freshmen days when she would have to go sign student loan documents, and could not find the actual financial aid office.
Alex Basso, now a sophomore at Manhattanville, also shares the same opinion as McClintock. “I remember as a freshmen I had to go to the financial aid office. I’m following all these arrows and I got so lost! It’s a lot bigger than you would think,” said Basso.
Along with those bad moments have come great ones. “Being that I’m a junior I was one of the last groups to fully enjoy a castle party,” says McClintock. For many students at Manhattanville, when you mention the Castle, Castle parties are all that is remembered. One reason for that is the simple fact that parties in the castle the main reason that students got to be there. The students however, have no one to blame but themselves. It wasn’t until the Fall of 2010 that Dean Dawson sent an email to student saying that castle parties were over, and there would be no more. An expensive table that dated back from the history of the Castle was shattered to pieces and the school was not happy.
This punishment for students got them thinking. What was so special about the castle that a broken table could ruin the fun for all students? Where did that table come from? Were all items in the castle just as important? To know this, one would have to find out the history of the castle and the land and people it came from.
Reid Hall, now referred to as the Castle by students, was built to house the very important Whitelaw Reid, who was a prominent politician, and journalist. In 1887 the Reid family purchased the 700-acre land called Ophir Farm from Benjamin Holladay in what the Reid’s referred to as “terrible condition.” The lands had not been maintained and the building was abandoned. Whitelaw Reid and his wife hired Frederic Law Olmsted to come to the rescue and be their landscape architect. Being that Olmsted had been in charge of designing Central Park, the Reids believed he would be the perfect fit for them. While the home was being wired for electricity it caught fire in 1888 and burnt down. After the initial structure of the mansion caught fire the Reids decided they wanted their new home to be bigger and more castle-like.
After adding a fifth-floor tower and a medieval look, the Reids decorated the inside with lavish furniture, carpets, tapestries and paintings all imported from Europe. The entire project was finally finished in 1892, and was named Ophir Hall. After Reid’s death in 1912 his wife Elisabeth sold most of Ophir Hall’s furnishings at auction. The Reids’ estate remained unoccupied for years until Manhattanville College purchased it in 1949.
According to The Chapel at Reid Hall by Nancy E. Todd associate Professor of Biology, the Manhattanville College of Sacred Heart purchased “all 250 acres of the estate, the mansion and 12 auxiliary buildings,” moving the college from Manhattan to Purchase, NY. In 1969 the mansion was renamed Reid Hall and was added to the “National Register of Historic Places in 1974.”
The land that Manhattanville College lies on is not only important because of Whitelaw Reid. Did you know that during World War I the land our College lies on now was used by the Farmerettes, an all women war group that grew crops and managed livestock to support the war efforts? It seems that everywhere we go on campus some building has a huge piece of history and the castle only plays a small part.
“Everywhere you turn there are weird entrances and exits, walking up to Financial Aid office is a disaster. It makes you wonder what existed before it in that very spot,” says freshmen Ashley Hess. These questions have left students to create their own stories of what went on in the castle years and years ago. Senior Francesca Savella a member of Manhattanville Sound runs the Haunted Castle Tours during Halloween time. Although she does admit the stories are “officially untrue,” she does say they’re pretty scary. One of the stories is that “Mr. Reid, the owner of the castle’s three children died in the castle during a terrible fire, and still roam the hallways of the west room right where the painting of them is.”
Manhattanville’s castle is also known by its horror stories and ghost sightings. Lauren Ziarko, Manhattanville’s Archivist, put the rumors to rest about the scary stories of Manhattanville. “Unfortunately there is no truth to them, there have been no mysterious crimes, murders, sightings, etc. in the castle history. It is just spooky rumors that students like to pass on,” said Ziarko. For those students who had been interested in the strange spooky stories surrounding the castle, now their fears and wonders can be put to rest.
Even though most of the stories are officially false, Savella does point out that creepy things do occur but possibly out of coincidence. However, in a story told to her by Campus Safety officer Rich Biscardi coincidence seems impossible. As the story goes, it was said that “several years ago when the Manhattanville Cheerleading team was practicing in the West room, after practice, the girls all went to grab their phones and watches and realized that all of their time pieces had frozen, like time literally stopped until they left the west room.”
So what goes on in Reid Hall now? When Manhattanville College purchased the land, the first floor was preserved to maintain the integrity that the building held. The upper floors were broken up into sections for use as administrative offices. Currently Reid Hall consists of the Office of Financial Aid, Student Accounts, Admissions, and many faculty offices.
What many students at Manhattanville might be shocked to find out is that the Castle is in fact famous. The HBO series of Boardwalk Empire was filmed in the vicinity of Reid Hall during the Summer months. In fact, there always seems to be interesting things occurring on campus during different times of each semester that students are not informed about. An episode of Law and Order: SVU was also filmed in the President’s Cottage and a few weeks ago movie trailers packed out the back parking lot for the filming of a new Joaquin Phoenix movie. Manhattanville College seems to be a breeding ground for exciting events, and it all started with the immense popularity of Reid Hall years and years ago.