The College in the Sky

By Matt Dershowitz ’20

Overlook Castle, otherwise known as Seely’s Castle, is iconic. Completed around 1919 by Fred Loring Seely for his private residence, the castle has been home a number of people and institutions including the predecessor to UNC Asheville: Asheville-Biltmore College.

The design for the 20,000-square-foot castle was inspired by English Gothic architecture, specifically that of an abbey near London. As a nationally recognized historic place, the castle is teeming with history. For example, in 1939, former President Hoover was reportedly a guest of Seely. The castle itself is even made of history, as stones from the Tower of London and Blarney Castle were used in the construction of one of the fireplaces.

In 1949, seven years after Seely passed away, his widow, Evelyn Grove Seely, decided to sell their beloved castle. Evelyn, the daughter of pharmaceutical baron E.W. Grove, sold the castle to Asheville-Biltmore College for $125,000, $50,000 of which was paid in the form of a gift from Evelyn Seely as a contribution to Asheville-Biltmore.

Asheville-Biltmore College resided in Overlook Castle for 11 years until, in 1961, the university outgrew the illustrious mansion and resettled at its current location off Merrimon Ave. Though noticeably less fairy-tale-like, the new campus was able to fit the growing population of students attending the university. That being said, we still were in a castle.