Cairnwood was gifted to the Academy of the New Church in 1980, it remained empty for a more than a decade before beginning its transition into the national historic landmark it is today. The restoration began in 1994, and opened to the public in 1995 with a Designer Show House spearheaded by local volunteer, Bee Herder.
The restoration and interpretation of Cairnwood are focused on the turn of the century—ca. 1895-1916. In 2008, Cairnwood Estate along with the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn Museum, was designated as a National Historic Landmark, comprising the Bryn Athyn Historic District.
Operating as a non-profit, our mission is to preserve and restore the historic home of John and Gertrude Pitcairn as an educational, cultural, and hospitality venue. Cairnwood Estate strives to provide a creative model for sustainable preservation and adaptive reuse, while maintaining the integrity of our history and importance as a National Historic Landmark. We are committed to creating opportunities for audiences of all ages to be immersed in the Gilded Age. Our preservation philosophy is simple. We believe that design alterations for adaptive reuse at Cairnwood Estate must be rooted in the integrity and intention of the original plans, linking the past with present uses. Any proposed modification should resemble or exist within the traditional appearance and character of the original designs and plans. The restoration of Cairnwood was made possible by a grant from the Glencairn Foundation and was managed by John Milner Architects under the supervision of Drew Nehlig.
John D. Milner, FAIA, and partner Mary Werner DeNadai, FAIA (John Milner Architects) have been recognized for their outstanding efforts in the field of restoration and preservation with several distinguished awards such as the Medal of Distinction awarded by AIA Pennsylvania, and the 2010 President’s Award from National Trust for Preservation. The firm has been involved with the restoration planning for the estate since 1994. Their most recent project was redesigning the Garden House to function as the welcome center for Cairnwood and the Bryn Athyn Historic District. The project was completed with a grand opening in March, 2010. Affiliated with John Milner Architects, Milner & Carr Conservation, LLC (renamed Materials Conservation Collaborative, LLC) provide a wide range of conservation services for interior and exterior architectural elements as well as historic collections. They restored several pieces of original Cairnwood furniture and a marble bust of Pitcairn. Their expertise and experience includes notable projects with the New York Public Library (one of New York’s iconic Beaux Arts landmarks) and Nemours in Wilmington, Delaware, both of which were designed by Carrère & Hastings. Historian Jean K. Wolf, Wolf Historic Preservation, researched and prepared the applications for the National Register of Historic Places (2001) and the National Historic Landmark Registration report (2008), both of which have provided the backbone for interpretation and preservation projects.