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Brandeis demolition could be delayed

Usen Castle at Brandeis University is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Brandeis University

The Waltham Historical Commission will hold a meeting Monday to review plans by Brandeis University to tear down parts of the historic Usen Castle, and will discuss whether to impose a one-year demolition delay.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at the Government Center, 119 School St.

Commission member Alex Green said the board has already heard from many residents, but encourages others with opinions to attend. Even though the castle is on a private university campus, Green said, it’s also part of a Waltham neighborhood.

“What strikes me is the community at large seems to have a vested interest in the property,’’ he said. “The castle, for many people in town, is a real emblem of the cultural connection between the school and the town.’’


The commission will consider a demolition delay because the castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered a building of historical significance.

Green said the commission will look at whether the building can be rehabbed, saved, or maintained. If it finds it can be salvaged in whole, then demolition could be put on hold for a year, he said.

“In my view, a demolition delay is to slow down someone who is in a hurry and encourage them to use the many resources at hand to try to save the property,’’ said Green, who is a Brandeis alumnus.

According to Massachusetts Historical Commission records, the castle was built in 1928 by John Hall Smith, founder of Middlesex College of Medicine and Surgery, which occupied the campus prior to Brandeis.

Today, the castle houses sophomore dorms and a coffeehouse.

According to the Brandeis website, most of the castle is slated for demolition, but two main towers — described by university officials as the “most iconic and visible parts” of the castle — will be retained as is, for now.


The plan would allow Brandeis to build new residences on the castle site that would accommodate approximately 160 students.

If the plan moves forward, students will continue to live in the castle through the end of the fall semester, and the coffeeshop is expected to remain open. Site work is expected to begin in spring 2017, and construction to be finished by August 2018.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at