Bryn Athyn was founded as a religious community in the late 19th century by members of a Christian denomination known as the New Church. It is home to some of the area’s most remarkable architecture, buildings that reflect the religious faith of the community’s earliest residents.
In 1928, ground was broken for Glencairn, the home of the Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn family. Raymond was also responsible for the design and construction of Bryn Athyn Cathedral. In an effort to build in the medieval way, both structures were created using methods that were highly unusual for the 20th century. Instead of relying on predetermined architectural plans, the buildings evolved organically, and the designers relied on both scale and full-size plaster models. Despite his lack of training in reading architectural drawings, the three-dimensional models allowed Pitcairn to participate fully in the design work. The full-size models, which were tested in place on the buildings, made it easy for designers and craftsmen to collaborate and develop ideas together. The family moved into Glencairn in 1939, and Glencairn remained in the family until Mildred’s death in 1979. The next year, the family gave Glencairn and its contents, including the art collections and surrounding property, to the Academy of the New Church. Glencairn now serves as a museum of religious art and history. Visitors who explore Glencairn meet with a wealth of images in stone, wood, glass and mosaic—created by Bryn Athyn craftsmen, and inspired by the teachings of the New Church. Glencairn Museum is known internationally for its outstanding collection of religious art, used to educate visitors about religious life through the ages.