Reid Hall, the mystery of Manhattanville College

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.


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An Unlikely Hero

“Two lines girls, let’s go!” said Ashley DeMarco, senior captain of the Manhattanville women’s lacrosse team blowing every last bit of hot air she could into her gloves. “It’s pretty damn cold out.”

The sun hadn’t even risen yet on the field as the women’s lacrosse team stepped onto it for their morning practice. The 17 players formed two lines to run their routine lap around the frost-covered turf field. One player, senior Elizabeth Cooper, known as Coop to her teammates, was not in either of those two lines. In fact, she was suiting up for the first practice of the season.

“Chest pad, thigh pads, shin-guards, helmet and my mouthguard; I think I’m ready to go,” said Cooper.  “I have no idea what I’m getting myself into,” Cooper repeated as she stepped into goal to be warmed up by her goalie coach, Marissa Bonitatabus. Prior to that moment Cooper had never played goalie before but she wasn’t about the let the fear of striking out keep her from playing the game of lacrosse.

Growing up in the small town of Old Greenwich, Conn., Cooper had dreams of going to a big university, and athletics was never her main concern.

“I loved sports, but I wasn’t trying to surround myself with it,” she said. “I really wanted to focus on school.” Cooper had dreams of becoming a veterinarian, so when she got accepted into Quinnipiac University’s veterinarian Tech program, it was a no-brainer. “The campus was gorgeous,” she said. “However, my dreams changed. I wanted to be a sociology major and Manhattanville had a great program.”

Cooper found her ideas switching from becoming a veterinarian to a social worker and from favoring a large school to preferring a smaller one. Cooper eventually came to Manhattanville as a transfer in the spring of 2011. She voluntarily signed on for the women’s lacrosse team as a defender in [when? Month and year]. Having played two years of varsity lacrosse at Hyde Catholic School in Connecticut, Cooper had the ability.

“I wanted to play defense,” she said. “It’s really all I knew.” Throughout the season, Cooper realized her playing time would be limited. The defenders on the Manhattanville team were highly skilled and experienced, and her level was limited. “I started to just enjoy being part of the team more than actually playing the game,” she said. “I didn’t care if I didn’t step on the field. I just liked supporting the girls.”

However, this past January, the Manhattanville women’s lacrosse team faced a detrimental loss to its roster. Freshman Jill Hudson was the team’s only goaltender, and after a diagnoses of mononucleosis, she was out for the season.

“It’s something I never would have predicted,” said Hudson. “If you asked me a few months ago where I thought I would be now, I’d say on the field with my teammates.”

Head coach Anna Riordan had to do what any coach in her position would do: Ask someone to step up. “I said to them, ‘You all know we need a goalie.’” She continued: “‘If any of you feel that you want to try it and maybe give it a shot, who knows, you might actually enjoy it and be good at it!’” The only response she received were crickets, and the vague sounds of girls’ heads turning to look and see if anyone had risen their hands. Suddenly Cooper spoke: “I’ll do it. I’d like to give it a shot.” Her response was met with claps and cheers. The women’s lacrosse team finally had something to be excited about.

“I was a senior, and I wanted to leave the team with a lasting impact, whether I would be good or not,” said Cooper.

“Last year, people around campus didn’t really take us too seriously because of our record,” said Casandra Honovich, a sophomore on the team as well as their leading goal scorer. “I mean, 7-9 is not much to be proud of.”

Honovich explained some unfortunate losses the team faced last year to schools like Kings College, and Lebanon Valley College kept them from getting a playoff berth. She insisted that this year would be different, especially with Cooper in the goal.

“She’s all warmed up,” said Coach Bonitatabus on that cold morning. Honovich picks up a ball and drives to goal to take the first shot on their new goaltender. Cooper, as ready as anyone can be when a 60mph shot is coming their way ducks out of the goal screaming, “good lord are you trying to kill me,” sending the whole team into sporadic laughter. The road ahead of them might seem longer than they expected. However according to Honovich they all have something this year that they didn’t have last year: “faith.”


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To Leave or Not to Leave, That is the Question

To Leave or Not to Leave, That is the Question

By: Melissa Goncalves

Freshman field hockey player Robyn Downing announced last week that she will transfer to Marist College from Manhattanville at the end of the fall semester, citing Manhattanville’s “boring, unexciting and redundant campus life.”

“There is nothing to do here,” Downing said.  “And when you try to make something fun for everyone, you get in trouble.”

Students seem so stuck on the idea that college is one big party and then they arrive at Manhattanville College and they see “the most boring place on earth,” according to Michael Arena. Along with the 75% freshmen retention rate, Manhattanville manages to maintain a low percentage of 58 students graduating in the allotted four years.

At Manhattanville College in upper Middle Class Westchester County this fad of redundancy seems to be no different. Eileen O’Reilly, an assistant field hockey coach believes that, “students want to be able to have their fun and enjoy their time here, but the people of this County don’t seem very forgiving.” In O’Reilly’s mind, having lived in this County her entire life she accepts the fact that the locals have a sense of being a bit stuck up. “They don’t want this campus to make this town a ‘college-town.’ Whenever there is a slightest bit of disruption, the cops are called.” O’Reilly even stated overhearing about an incident where a local neighbor to the College had the church bells in the chapel turned off, stating that they “disrupted his nights of rest.”  With tuition costs being in the upper $50,000 many students wish they were more informed of what exactly they were paying for.

Manhattanville College has a small population of 1,700 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students, making it one of the lower to middle populated Colleges on the East Coast. Manhattanville is also a predominantly female campus, with women carrying 66% of the population. These numbers give Manhattanville an extra sense of value. At this institution, “you actually mean something, you’re not just a number you are a person,” said junior, Becca McClintock, who added, “It’s a small, close-knit community. You walk around on the quad and you never see someone you don’t recognize. You’ve seen everyone before.”

Annie Read, an admissions counselor at Manhattanville that represents students from the state of New York, says, “it is no surprise that tuition is definitely a big aspect of why students choose to transfer.” Certain families rely on scholarships for their students to go to this College and if they do not do particularly well in terms of grades then they may choose to transfer to a community college or a less expensive school.

Also a big issue is distance from home. Students become extremely homesick during their first years here and sometimes that is the deal breaker for most.”

What Junior Becca McClintock loves about Manhattanville is the reason why Charley DeChent transferred from Manhattanville to the University of Albany. “It’s the same thing all the time. Charley continues, “I’m not trying to say that I just wanted to come to College party but isn’t that part of the experience? Don’t people want to have a good time? Albany has house parties and things that everyone can do together and at Manhattanville if you can’t get into a bar, you’re essentially a nobody.”

This opinion is shared by many Manhattanville students young and old who wish there was a way to unite their friends together, not entirely by a party atmosphere but by interesting things everyone can be involved in, says senior Colleen Macedo. “It becomes very difficult to stay close to my friends because you want to have a good time with everyone but I am 21 and they aren’t,” says Macedo a member of the Manhattanville field hockey team. “I just celebrated my birthday in December and none of my close friends could join me because there is no place to keep everyone together.”

Manhattanville does have its share of many attributes that make students want to stay according to junior Marco Blasetti. As a member of the soccer team Blasetti feels the team played a large part in getting him to stay at this College. “I made some great friends that I’m going to be close to for a long time on this team, they’ve become my family and I’d never want to lose that.” Marco is not the only athlete who feels this way. Danielle Scicutella, a defensemen on the women’s lacrosse team believes lacrosse saved her life at this school. “My grades were slipping and I wasn’t on the right track. Playing lacrosse and having mandatory study halls helped me appreciate this college and actually enjoy my time here.”

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