Exciting New Book about the Bryn Athyn Historic District!

Glencairn Museum News | Number 6, 2011


Cover of The Bryn Athyn Historic District published in May, 2011.


Raymond Pitcairn with a Model of Glencairn


In 2008, the US Secretary of the Interior designated the Bryn Athyn Historic District as a National Historic Landmark. The district comprises Bryn Athyn Cathedral and three former Pitcairn residences. The distinction of National Historic Landmark is awarded to historic structures that have been determined to be nationally significant in American history and culture. According to David Rowland, President of the Old York Road Historical Society, “The publication of The Bryn Athyn Historic District is significant because it is the first book to examine the fascinating history of all of the buildings within the historic district. Ed and Kirsten have done a wonderful job of setting the historical record straight with their great research and fine writing. The book is an excellent introduction to this regional treasure and Pennsylvania’s newest National Historic Landmark.”


Scale model of Bryn Athyn Cathedral on Rails


Several of the buildings also share a common building philosophy. The design of Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn evolved gradually in the Bryn Athyn Studios, where emphasis was placed on experimenting with scale and full-sized plaster models rather than relying solely on predetermined architectural plans. Their construction was carefully documented by Raymond Pitcairn, who took thousands of photographs, now preserved in the Glencairn Museum Archives. The Pitcairns were prominent members of a Christian denomination known as the New Church, and were instrumental in the founding of the borough of Bryn Athyn, a New Church community. The origins of the New Church lie in 18th-century Sweden, with the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), a scientist, philosopher, and Christian theologian.


Pencil Drawing of Autogiro in Flight over Cairncrest


The book was produced by the husband-and-wife team of Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal. Ed Gyllenhaal has been curator of Glencairn Museum since 1987, and is on the faculty at Bryn Athyn College. He has written and produced two award-winning documentaries, “Cairnwood: A Home in the Country” (2003), and “Embracing the Sacred: The Story of Glencairn Museum” (2007). Kirsten Hansen Gyllenhaal works as an independent historical researcher, writer, and editor. Ed and Kirsten were married in Bryn Athyn Cathedral in 1985, and live just up the road from the Pennypack Creek and the historic Bryn Athyn train station.

Kirsten, who also works as a tour guide for Glencairn Museum, says, “Visitors to Glencairn often tell me they have driven past the buildings in the Historic District for years, but they never knew what a treasure was waiting for them until they actually stepped inside. I hope our book will help raise awareness about these buildings and their remarkable history so that more people will come and enjoy them.”


Volita Wells Poses in Costume in Cairnwood's Parlor Hall


The authors’ royalties and a portion of profits from books sold at Glencairn Museum will go toward the care of historic photographs in the archives of the Bryn Athyn Historic District. New and renewing members of Glencairn Museum will receive a copy of The Bryn Athyn Historic District free of charge (offer good May 30, 2011 – May 30, 2012). This offer applies to Individual ($30), Family ($40), and Frequent Visitor ($80) membership categories. More information about membership is here.

MEET THE AUTHORS at a Book Launch at Glencairn during the Landmarks in Lights event, Wednesday, June 15, 8-11 p.m. At this time all of the buildings in the Bryn Athyn Historic District will be open free of charge.