About Glencairn Museum
Glencairn, built between 1928 and 1939, was once the home of Raymond and Mildred (Glenn) Pitcairn and their children, devoted members of the Bryn Athyn congregation. The building now serves as a museum of religious art and history. Glencairn Museum educates visitors about the history of religion, using art and artifacts from a variety of cultures and time periods. Religious life through the ages is presented by means of a remarkable collection illustrating religions as varied as ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek and Roman, medieval Christian, Islamic, Asian, and American Indian.
In 1876, Rev. William Henry Benade (1816–1905), together with a small group of supporters, established the Academy of the New Church in Philadelphia. Over the next few years, their dream of a comprehensive system of religious education for the New Church was realized, and the Academy developed a Theological School for training ministers, a College, a Boys’ School and a Girls’ School. Benade, believing that “a good museum is a necessary adjunct of a good school,” founded the Academy’s museum just a few months after the first classes began. While traveling on a tour of Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land, he arranged for John Pitcairn (Raymond’s father) to purchase more than 1,000 artifacts from the ancient world.
Glencairn was built by Raymond Pitcairn (1885-1966), in a style based on medieval Romanesque architecture. Pitcairn, who had no formal training in architecture, had previously supervised the construction of Bryn Athyn Cathedral, a Gothic and Romanesque style complex. The design of both buildings evolved gradually, relying on scale and full-sized plaster models rather than on predetermined architectural plans. Creative input was sought from the craftsmen themselves, who worked together with designers in the shops and studios that were built for them on the site. Glencairn, above all a home, was also designed to house Pitcairn’s outstanding collection of medieval objects, which were purchased as inspirational models for the artists who worked on the Cathedral.
The Pitcairns moved into Glencairn in 1939. Raymond died in 1966, and Mildred remained in the home until she passed away in 1979. The next year the building and its contents, including the art collections, were given to the Academy of the New Church. The collections of the Academy’s museum, located on the top floor of the library, were moved to Glencairn and merged with the Pitcairn collections to create what is now known as Glencairn Museum.
The Museum’s mission has remained essentially unchanged since it was founded more than a century ago. William Benade’s original vision—a museum honoring the religious traditions of people through the ages—has been realized in Glencairn’s outstanding collection of religious art, used to educate visitors about religious life through the ages.