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Friday Fun Fact: Arcadia University

Gilded Age Housing for Fortunate Freshmen

About six miles north of the center of Philadelphia, in the tiny hamlet of Glenside, you’ll find Arcadia University, and one of the most impressive structures to sit on any college campus.

It’s called Grey Towers Castle, the former home of a local sugar refinery owner, William Welsh Harrison, and his family. Completed in 1898, Grey Towers Castle was the first major commission for Horace Trumbauer, one of the most prominent architects of America’s Gilded Age. Trumbauer also designed the main library at Harvard, and many palatial estates in Newport, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England, was the inspiration for the exterior of Grey Towers, whose interior design ranged from the Renaissance to Louis XV of France. It contains more than 40 rooms and was one of the largest homes in the U.S. when it was built.

DIGARC client Arcadia University (then Beaver College) acquired Grey Towers in 1929 for $712,500, and held classes there until 1962.

Today, Grey Towers Castle houses Arcadia’s Office of Admissions, Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, and the office of the president. And for a few lucky freshmen, student housing is located on the sprawling third floor, which contained many guest bedrooms when the Harrisons resided there. Grey Tower’s coed housing opportunities range from one- to five-roommate options in very large rooms.

Grey Towers being an old castle — and a National Historic Landmark — there is no shortage of ghost stories and secret passages and tunnels in this spectacular structure. There’s lots more information about this fascinating place at Arcadia’s website at

Photo Courtesy of Arcadia University

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