Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Not Natural, But Nice
Another beautiful weekend here in the Mid-Atlantic. We had a Mid-Atlantic ex-pat friend visiting from St. Paul, Minnesota this weekend, and he wanted to see some places with flowering trees since Minnesota has a dearth of spring-flowering trees.
We decided to walk around the community of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, a tiny Philadelphia suburb that has recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of several monumental buildings built in the early 20th century. Bryn Athyn was established in 1917 by John Pitcairn, the founder of Pittsburgh Plate Glass (i.e., PPG Industries). John was a robber baron of the Gilded Age (he owned property on the private lake impounded by the private dam that burst and devastated Johnstown, Pennsylvania). He later moved to Philadelphia, where he began to buy-up rural land to create a religious community that would serve as the headquarters of the Church of the New Jerusalem, a faith based on the teachings of 18th century Swedish mystic and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. With the land secured, John built his yellow-brick mansion (Cairnwood) on a hill overlooking the village. One of his sons, Raymond, designed and oversaw the construction of the Romanesque- and Gothic-inspired Bryn Athyn Cathedral, and then, because it was the Great Depression, he retained the cathedral artisans to build his own castle-like house called Glencairn (now a museum).
Today, the cathedral is surrounded by beautiful gardens and the flowering trees our friend wanted to see.