Boston University’s campus is sprawling and from the outside, it’s hard to see it. It all looks like another street in Boston, just with more young people running around. But from the inside, as a BU student, where the school starts and ends becomes a little more clear. It’s easy to forget though that while this is a college campus, there are buildings and places here that have a history with roots that run deeper than just being an institution at BU. Located on Bay State road in east campus, The Castle is one of BU’s more luxurious and sophisticated looking structures around (sorry law school).
Construction on The Castle was complete in 1915. It was built by William Lindsey, a business-man who became wealthy by patenting a cartridge belt used in the Boer War. The Castle is a Tudor-revival style manor, lending a little old world majesty to the brownstones of Bay State.
The BU lore surrounding The Castle is that William Lindsey built it as a wedding present for his daughter, Leslie. She was supposedly enamored with the picturesque castles of Europe, so Lindsey endeavored to give her a castle of her own. It’s a fairy tale worthy story, especially given the tragic turn of events that would take place.
This story begins to seem a little less likely, however, once several facts are taken into account. For starters, plans for The Castle had been laid out as early as 1904, 11 years before Lindsey’s daughter would be married. Second, Lindsey fancied himself to be something of a poet and a playwright. He wrote The Red Wine of Rousssillon and The Severed Mantle, tales that center around romanticized versions of medieval Europe. Bainbridge Bunting, an architecture historian, referred to The Castle as having “the most convincing medieval effect on the area.”
So why was The Castle built? The answer with the most evidence appears to be that it was not intended as a wedding present. Lindsey displayed a passion for all things medieval in his writings and travelings, and the early year The Castle was first planned suggest that it was intended to be little more than a personal home, not the best wedding present ever.
The first of many weddings held in The Castle was in 1915, and was the wedding of Lindsey’s oldest daughter, Leslie Lindsey. Leslie and her new husband were bound for a European honeymoon, and they made the trip across the Atlantic in the infamous Lusitania. The large passenger ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat, killing 1,198 passengers, including the newly wed couple.
William Lindsey died soon after The Lusitania sunk, and The Castle would pass through a couple more owners before BU acquired it in 1939. It would serve as the home for BU’s president until the early seventies. President John Silber decided that The Castle brought him and his family too close to student rallies and protests, and relocated the president’s home to somewhere not based in the middle of student life.
To learn more about The Castle’s history and its current functions, check out this site.