Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
A trip to Bryn Athyn, just a mile outside the Philadelphia city limits, can seem like a trip back in time, and to another continent. There are four buildings in the tiny borough’s historic district, each connected to the Pitcairn family, whose patriarch, Scottish-born industrialist John Pitcairn, amassed a fortune manufacturing plate glass.
Each building is an architectural marvel: the Gothic-style Bryn Athyn Cathedral (the family adhered to the Church of the New Jerusalem), looks like it dates from the late middle ages in Europe rather than a Pennsylvania borough incorporated in 1916. The oldest of the buildings, John’s Beaux Arts mansion Cairnwood, was constructed in the 1890s, and Cairncrest was built as a home for aviator Harold Pitcairn, one of John’s sons. But the standout has to be Raymond Pitcairn’s home, which he dubbed Glencairn but locals have called “The Castle” for generations. It towers above the borough on a high hill and is now a museum of religious art and history, said to house one of the country’s best collections of medieval art and artifacts.