This post is part of a series that addresses the physical aspects of our campus, specifically the history and the current state of Brandeis University architecture and planning.
I think I can safely say that almost all Brandeisians agree on at least one thing: the Castle is really cool. Many of us have explored its rooms and passages, and some of us have even gotten lost in them. It’s the only still-standing building I know of that existed before Brandeis was founded. Usen Castle is on the National Register of Historic Places, and while almost all other buildings on campus will likely face destruction at some point in the future, the Castle is almost certainly here to stay.
Unfortunately the Castle has undergone a lot of changes over the years, mostly for the worse. I’d like to tell you about one of these today.
Between the two gates is a long, thin stone wall with red crenelations on top. On the interior side of the wall you can see through the windows that there’s a long room with a lot of junk in it. One day the door was open, so I walked in for a moment to take a picture.
From my research at the University Archives, I learned that this area between the gates used to serve as a reading room, complete with study corrals and cubbies for students to work and store their things. The room had an intimate feel, with a warm light from the lamps on each desk and the shimmer of a beautiful mosaic tile ceiling. It has since been closed and forgotten.
So, let’s do a before and after:
Some areas of the Castle have legitimate reason to be closed: many spaces contain asbestos, which could be hazardous to students’ health. I don’t believe that this area suffers from that problem, because it looks like it’s actively being used for storage. So why can’t students enjoy this space today? I would love to study there. This is just one of the Castle’s lost treasures.
I urge the administration to restore some of the Castle’s lost glory through renovating this space and making it usable for our great students once again.