Guest Rooms (Bridal Suite)
When a large party was held in a country house, in 1895, it was common for guests to stay several days – if not weeks or even months. Accommodations featured amenities including: close proximity to the service wing, personalized climate control, and a private bath. These beautifully appointed rooms have been restored with furniture appropriate for the period. The estate’s historian, interior designers and a consultant from the University of Pennsylvania selected the exceptional furnishings and papers that transport guests back into the Gilded Age. Today, the rooms are used as a private dressing suites for the brides. The window seat is perfect for moments of quiet reflection (or to peek at incoming guests); with a view of the wrought iron balcony, colorful blooms, and the woodland beyond.
Gertrude’s Balcony Room
The center guest room is named in honor of Cairnwood’s “lady of the house,” Gertrude Pitcairn. According to Pitcairn family history, the partner desk and matching book shelf belonged to Gertrude and was the very spot where household expenses and affairs were managed. The room features personal items and a picturesque balcony centered over the grand entrance.
The Boudoir & Master Bedroom (Groom’s Dressing Chamber)
Known as “the room with the view,” the master bedroom and boudoir adjoin to create a large suite. The alcove to the left of the fireplace originally included a washstand and the cabinets on both sides of the mantel served as hidden jewelry closets. During the Gilded Age it was typical for couples to have separate suites for their personal use including sitting, sleeping, and bathing areas. Rather than having divided quarters, John and Gertrude Pitcairn shared the master bedroom. The carved bed and matching dressers were most likely used while the Pitcairn’s lived on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia from 1887 to 1895.
Originally designated as a bedroom for the children, this space is named in honor of Harold Pitcairn, the youngest and only one of John and Gertrude’s children to have been born at Cairnwood. Harold Pitcairn is well known for his innovations in the field of aviation. He developed the American Autogiro, the precursor to the helicopter. In 1931, Harold received the Collier Trophy award from President Hoover, the highest honor in the field of aviation for the year of 1930. Orville Wright was in the audience.
The Service Wing
In stately homes of the Gilded Age period the service wing was quite large, perhaps as much as 30 percent of the total square footage of the house, and Cairnwood is no exception. At the time of the dedication of the building in 1895 there were seven live-in staff, five maid’s bedrooms, a sewing room, nursery, bundle room, and linen closet. There is also a network of rooms connected by a back stairwell including: a kitchen, a butler’s pantry, servants’ hall where staff dined, vegetable, coal, and milk storage rooms, laundry, drying room, wine cellar, lamp & boot room, and several other storage rooms.
Sewing Room & Nursery
Directly connected to the service hallway, are rooms identified as the sewing room and nursery on the original Hastings plan. The sewing room does not have many decorative features because of its designation as a “working” room for the servants. However, the nursery, designated as a “family” room, has higher ceilings, three elegant six foot windows and a fireplace. Pocket doors, connecting these two rooms for convenience, allowed the staff to work in the sewing room and care for the children.
This room has been restored with simple furniture that would be appropriate for a maid’s bedroom during the Gilded Age. Despite its location in the service wing, the architects included many modern amenities for the comfort of the servants. The room features a state-of-the-art pivoting window. Referred to as a “Leroy” window on the original floor plan, it improved ventilation. Generous quarters, convection steam heat, electricity, and a shared hall bathroom promoted the well-being of the staff. In 1913, this room was the home of the Pitcairn’s English nanny, Bea Ashley. She worked for the family for her entire adult life. A formidable care giver, the Pitcairn children nickname her “The General.”