Glencairn Museum News | Number 5, 2018
On the evening of June 8, 1934, Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn’s eldest daughter, Gabriele, married the Rev. Willard Dandridge Pendleton. The ceremony took place at Bryn Athyn Cathedral (Figure 3), which was aglow with candles on six large iron candelabras made especially for the occasion in the blacksmith shop of Raymond’s Bryn Athyn Studios. Red and white roses, bay trees, and evergreens completed the chancel decorations. The six iron candelabras continue to be used for weddings at the Cathedral to the present day.
The wedding reception took place at the Assembly Hall (today the Mitchell Performing Arts Center) on the campus of the Academy of the New Church schools in Bryn Athyn. The Assembly Hall was built in 1930 to accommodate physical education classes, plays, and large school and community gatherings. The central room included a stage at one end, and a wall with a large window at the opposite end. Historic photographs of the elaborate decorations for Gabriele and Willard’s reception in this room reveal that many of the works of art being created for Glencairn, built between 1928 and 1939, were brought together for the occasion.
A contemporary source described the effect: “The hall within had been converted into a magnificent formal garden, becoming a bower of loveliness with its floral and evergreen decorations and symbolic features in stained glass and carved stone ('Church News,' New Church Life 1934, p. 297).” The bridal party received their guests on the stage (Figure 5), surrounded by sculptures, plaster models, and metalwork, while the opposite end of the room featured a fountain spilling into a lily pond (Figure 4), above which was a large stained-glass window.
At the center of the stage was a massive bronze door (Figure 6), made in the Bryn Athyn Studios, which would later be installed in the north portal of Glencairn’s Great Hall (Figures 7 and 8). Two plaster columns flank either side of the bronze door, surmounted by plaster capitals carved with rams and ewes (Figure 6)—a familiar symbol of marriage and family at Glencairn. The designs of these two capitals were later realized in stone and installed on columns (Figure 7) by the entrance to Glencairn’s north porch.
Above the bronze door were plaster medallions with pairs of doves (Figure 9), another common symbol of marital love at Glencairn. Neither of these two bird designs can be seen today in any of the finished stone medallions at Glencairn. One of the plaster bird models in the photograph has survived and is now in storage with Glencairn’s collection of architectural models (Figure 10); it seems to have been cut from the larger model when it was dismantled.
Along the edge of the stage was a balustrade. At the center, directly in front of the bronze door, was a section of railing made up of five hand-forged Monel metal grills (Figure 11). These would later be used in heating ducts (Figure 12) on the walls of Glencairn’s Upper Hall.
To the left of the bronze door was a full-scale plaster model for a doorway design concept for Glencairn’s chapel (Figure 13). The finished design was later carved in granite, and includes the official seal for the Academy of the New Church, surrounded by sculpted angels and crosses (Figures 14 and 16). The lintel above the door features an engraved quotation from the book True Christianity by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772): “Now it is permitted to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith.” A plaster model of the lintel (Figure 15), which includes the elements just mentioned, still exists in Glencairn’s model collection, and was probably cut from the larger architectural model seen in the photo (Figure 13, left).
In addition to the architectural elements from the Bryn Athyn Studios, the stage was filled with cut greens, potted plants and flowers, shrubs, and even grass in the form of cut sod (Figure 5 and lead photograph). In front of the stage two shallow water lily pools were constructed and sheathed with natural bark (Figure 5). Chinese lanterns hung from the rafters.
At the opposite end of the room, suspended in front of the large window, was a stained-glass roundel (Figure 17) designed and made in the Bryn Athyn glassworks depicting the Woman Clothed with the Sun from the Book of Revelation (12:1). This window was later installed in the west wall of Glencairn’s Great Hall (Figure 18).
Below the stained-glass window the designers created a naturalistic fountain (Figure 19) using rocks and ferns, which spilled into a lily pond. The fountain was surrounded by granite blocks stacked together to support the lintel that now surmounts Glencairn’s front door. This is carved with a ram and ewe under a spreading tree, with the name “Glencairn” engraved below (Figure 20).
In front of the fountain and pool is an elaborate Monel metal railing (Figure 21), forged in the Bryn Athyn blacksmith shop. Today this magnificent railing graces an exterior third floor balcony (Figures 22 and 23) on Glencairn’s south side.
Glencairn has a magnificent cloister garden, which includes a series of symbolic bird capitals in granite (Figure 24). The capitals, numbering twelve in all, crown the columns forming the arcade. The cloister was still under construction in 1934 when Gabriele and Willard were married, but the capitals and columns had already been carved, and were installed at the wedding reception around the perimeter of the room. The capitals in the photographs appear to have lampshades on top, with a light source beneath.
Gabriele’s husband, the Rev. Willard Pendleton, would eventually become Bishop of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, the New Church (Swedenborgian) denomination headquartered in Bryn Athyn. Gabriele and Willard raised six children, and their family lived in Cairnwood, Raymond Pitcairn’s childhood home adjacent to Glencairn, from 1945 until 1980.
Color photography by Edwin Herder.
A complete archive of past issues of Glencairn Museum News is available online here.