Angelic Artworks

In The Spotlight feature | The Trend

[Information from original publication] (images included in article: The Lord with His disciples window from the Chapel, The Woman Clothed with the Sun from the Upper Hall, the King Window original from the Upper Hall, Raymond Pitcairn inspecting a model of Glencairn)

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of discovering one of Montgomery County’s best kept secrets—Glencairn Museum.

This building has been a predominant part of the community since its construction in the late 1920s. Containing countless aspects of local and worldly history within its walls, this extravagant building only becomes more intriguing with time.

The magnificent building was originally constructed by Raymond Pitcairn to serve as his family home. Construction began in 1928, but the family did not move in until 1939. This intermediate period was spent planning and manufacturing one of the most elaborate and exquisite buildings throughout the area.

The family home was transformed into a museum in 1980, after Raymond and his wife’s deaths, and has been open to the public ever since.

Many of the areas within the museum are left exactly how the Pitcairn family arranged them, including the Great Hall, master bedroom and chapel. Walking into the master bedroom, which is complete with a handcrafted bed, crib, table and dresser, is almost like stepping back in time, with such details as the bedspread, rugs, and family photos perfectly untouched.

During the time this remarkable home was constructed, the Pitcairn family believed very strongly in the New Church, which stressed having a personal relationship with God through family worship. The family attended daily worships in their private chapel, which also has been preserved untouched since their departure.

The tower is one of the most exciting and impressive aspects of the house turned museum. Because Bryn Athyn stands as the highest point in Montgomery County, the tower allows a view clear throughout the entire county.

“People can enjoy the best view on a clear winter day,” said Joralyn Echols, Glencairn’s events and public relations assistant. “You can even see the Philadelphia skyline.”

After observing the breathtaking view and beautiful architecture of the building, it is difficult to imagine more elegance, and yet the windows and historical artifacts throughout the building are even more impressive.

Pitcairn was an enormous admirer of medieval-style glass and spent a majority of his life duplicating the beautiful pieces he observed in the churches of Europe.

Many of these unrivaled artworks grace the windows of Glencairn Museum, alongside of the duplicates Pitcairn had made throughout the 1920s and ’30s.

Pitcairn has been an extravagant admirer of these pieces—so much that he sent artists to France and England to draw and photograph the glass within their churches. He then formed a stained-glass studio and furnace in Bryn Athyn and began the challenging but exhilarating project of duplicating these glassworks.

There was a tremendous amount of experimentation during this process to ensure the artworks were recreated with precise and perfectly accurate detail. Pitcairn went on to obtain over 260 pieces in his collection.

And just take a glance around Glencairn Museum today and you will see the level of success surrounding Pitcairn’s accomplishments.

The various styles that inspired him are obviously through the look, technique and colors he used when duplicating these pieces.

Glencairn Museum will be spotlighting a special event, with the intention of allowing this treasured artwork to be appreciated by the public. It will be held Feb. 12 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Glencairn Museum, which is at 1001 Cathedral Road in Bryn Athyn.

The free presentation will include exhibits observing the tools and techniques used to make stained glass, along with tours of Glencairn Museum and its various collections.

A complete tour of the museum is open to the public and meant to portray Glencairn as both the home it was in the past and the museum it is today.

Dr. Michael Cothren, an expert in medieval stained glass, will be available to discuss the history of Pitcairn’s glassworks and answer any questions.

Two workshops (which have a fee) will be available to the public, enabling participants to stain glass and take their new treasures home that day. Kenneth Leap, of the Stained Glass Center at Wheaton Village, will head the workshop and use authentic medieval methods, taking one part of this elaborate process and bringing it to life.

“He’s an educator; he loves to teach people,” said Ed Gyllenhaal, museum curator. “He is an artist who loves to rediscover medieval methods of painting glass.”

The workshop will cost $10 for the general public and $5 for students and members. Because there are only 24 spaces, reservations are recommended by calling 267-502-2981.

This building has been standing strong for more than six decades, and its beauty and historic education only strengthen with time. Although modern art continues to illuminate the world today, it is vital to appreciate artworks from the past—their history, construction, and, most important, their significance.