An octagonal tower, original furnishings, and a magnificent cut glass punch bowl are only a few of the treasures located on the third floor. Certified historic tour guides are available to show this extraordinary section of the house and unlock the secrets of life during the Gilded Age.
The most striking feature of Cairnwood when viewed from across the spacious lawn is an octagonal tower with a high-pitched roof. At the top of this tower is the family chapel, placed at the highest point in the house so that worshipers face east. None of the other houses designed by Carrère & Hastings included a private chapel. This room was a unique request by the Pitcairn family and is the embodiment of their strong spiritual beliefs. Lined in California redwood and with an impressive entrance of Doric columns, this octagonal room gives the illusion of entering a Greek temple. On the architrave above the columns is a Latin inscription from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian: “Now it is permitted to enter with understanding into the mysteries of faith” (True Christianity 508). The Writings of Swedenborg emphasize the importance of personally studying the Bible scriptures, removing the impediment of the literal sense in search of new understanding and deeper faith. In the early history of Bryn Athyn, and with many families in the church still today, family worship was an important part of each day.
The Collections [Playroom]
Listed as “Children’s Play Room” on the original floor plan, there are documented accounts from Bryn Athyn community members who remember playing within this room. Today, the Playroom is arranged as a gallery of family furniture, and belongings original to the home and family members who lived here. John Pitcairn took his first Grand Tour of Europe in 1874, once he had established his wealth in the oil boom in Western Pennsylvania. His collection of cigar accoutrements, passports, and traveling trunks are displayed here as well as a priceless collection of American railroad passes from 1868 to 1905. Photographs depict local landmarks and community activities in the late 19th and early 20th century and the collections include candlesticks, crystal, china, and silverware used for elaborate dinner celebrations held in the dining room.