Cairnwood Estate was constructed from 1892 – 1895 and was designed by Thomas Hastings, of the prominent New York architectural firm Carrère and Hastings. Cairnwood is considered Hastings’ first large scale country house commission. After Cairnwood, Hastings went on to develop a reputation as a designer of country houses for the “captains of industry” during America’s so-called “Gilded Age.”
Cairnwood was not intended to be used exclusively by the Pitcairn family, and it was the only residence they built It was designed for entertaining, hosting church, school, and community events. From the time that Cairnwood was dedicated in 1895, the pages of New Church Life are filled with reports about events that took place in this, the largest and most magnificent house and property in the young community of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. From the beginning there were many official Academy of the New Church meetings, wedding receptions, church socials, musical events,and lawn parties. In the summertime, elaborately-staged plays took place on the Cairnwood lawn, with the woods as a backdrop.
After Cairnwood was gifted to the Academy of the New Church in 1980, it remained empty for more than a decade before the building began its transition into the national historic landmark it is today. The restoration of Cairnwood Estate did not begin until 1994, opening to the public in 1995 with a Designer Show House.
In 2008, Cairnwood Estate was designated as a National Historic Landmark, along with the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn Museum all comprising the Bryn Athyn Historic District. Today, the restoration and interpretation of Cairnwood is focused on the first period of Cairnwood’s history at the turn of the century—ca. 1895-1916.