Designed in the Gothic revival style by architect William Thomas Beers, Leland Castle was constructed in 1855 as the residence of Simeon Leland, a wealthy New York hotel proprietor. Following the death of Leland and his wife, the Castle housed both an inn and then a school before the Iselin family acquired it for investment and development purposes. In 1897, Mother Irene Gill, O.S.U., purchased the Castle to house the Ursuline Seminary for Girls (now known as the Ursuline School). Leland Castle later became home to the first Catholic college for women in New York when Mother Irene founded The College of New Rochelle in 1904.
In the more than a century since the Ursulines purchased the Castle, only a few changes have been made to the original architecture to meet the needs of our community. The parlor was enlarged in 1899 to accommodate the growing Seminary, and in 1902, a wing was added to house a larger library and art gallery. In 1926, lightning destroyed the wooden parapet of the rear north tower, and an elevator was installed during reconstruction to replace the damaged wooden stairs.
While most of the original frescoes (which were most likely oil paint on plaster rather than true frescoes) have been lost, many of the unique architectural features of the Castle remain. These include the towers, battlements, and lancet windows on the building's exterior, the original stained glass, the blue and gold Minton tiles of the entrance hall, the two fireplaces in the main rooms, and the etched glass sliding doors.
Leland Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and in 1980 to the New York State Register. Also in 1980, the Castle Gallery was established in the northwest wing to serve as an art resource and cultural touchpoint for both CNR students and the local community. Today, the Castle houses CNR's administrative offices and plays host to many on-campus functions. Although a number of buildings—many in the same Gothic style—have risen around it over the past 100 years, Leland Castle remains the crown jewel of The College of New Rochelle main campus.