Grey Towers started out as a private estate for a wealthy businessman, and it gives testament to the fact that many Americans were making massive fortunes in the latter half of the 1800s. William Welsh Harrison, who owned a sugar refinery with his brothers, had this Philadelphia Pennsylvania-area castle built, and it all started with his purchase of an estate in 1881. After living in the house that was already found on his new estate for ten years, expansions were made to the structure, though an 1893 fire laid it all to waste. Harrison was not deterred, however. Later that same year, work on a new residence began, and the result was the spectacular Grey Towers that you see today.
England's famous Alnwick Castle was the main inspiration for Grey Towers Castle, but it certainly wasn't the only inspiration. In the wonderful Great Hall, for example, the decor is reminiscent of something that you might find in a French chateau, such as Chambord, and some have compared the Caen stone mantles at Grey Towers with the large Renaissance mantle inside the Chateau de Blois. The French themes don't stop there. In fact, much of the decor in the various Grey Towers Castle rooms has a French Renaissance appeal.
Perhaps the best way to describe Grey Towers in Pennsylvania is with the word eclectic. Various styles were employed throughout the building process, and a number of different buildings served as inspirations. By the time the project was completed, Grey Towers had 40 rooms and was among the largest homes in the US, and the fact that the finished product was both grand and eclectic helped to kick off a very successful career for the architect. This architect was named Horace Trumbauer, and among the other buildings and homes that he is responsible for in the Philadelphia area is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Two years after William Welsh Harrison passed away, his wife sold Grey Towers Castle to Beaver College, which is now Arcadia University. This transaction took place in 1927, and the purchase price was $712,500. In 1985, Grey Towers was designated a National Historic Landmark, and today, it continues to be the centerpiece of Arcadia University. Housed inside the majestic edifice are student bedrooms, the Admissions Offices, the Financial Aid Department, and the office of the president.
Arcadia University and its beloved Grey Towers Castle can be found in the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside. A tour of the school campus is recommended while in the area, and should you wish to tour Grey Towers itself, it is possible to do so in advance through the university.
Image: jackskellington101 (flickr)