A HISTORY.-OF THE DEANERY
RutH Levy Merriam, °31
Tue DEANERY COMMITTEE
THe DEANERY MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
Bryn Mawr College
I am deeply grateful to Helen Taft Manning, Millicent Carey
McIntosh, Katherine E. McBride and Gertrude S. Ely for their
suggestions and information; and to Lelia Woodruff Stokes for her
interest and support. I am especially indebted to Catherine Dean
Strohkarck for her editing and encouragement.
RutH L. MERRIAM
THe DEANERY COMMITTEE
Printed in the U.S.A.
Alfred J. Wyatt
In the fall of 1885, Bryn Mawr College inaugurated its first academic
year. Thirty-six young women had passed rigorous entrance examinations to
become the class of 1889. The campus then consisted of Taylor Hall, barely
finished; a physics laboratory, now the Book Shop; a small gymnasium, on the
same site as the present building; ‘‘Cartref”’, President Rhoads’ house, now the
Comptroller’s office; Merion Hall, the first dormitory; an old farm house, now
torn down; and situated almost in the center of the campus, three small
Victorian houses, the Deanery, the Betweenery and the Greenery. The
Greenery and the Betweenery, where the faculty lived, were moved to Wyndon
Avenue in the early nineteen hundreds to serve as faculty apartments, just as
they do today, as Yarrow East and West.
The Deanery, now the Alumnae House of Bryn Mawr, was originally a
five-room frame structure with a flat roof and long windows looking out on a
wide veranda. From this modest nucleus grew, almost like Topsy, the sprawl-
ing mansion of today, commemorating even now the unique personality of its
creator and former mistress, M. Carey Thomas, first Dean and second Presi-
dent of the College. Now almost a legend, she was one of the most celebrated
women of her era. Even as an inquisitive, self-willed child, she was determined
to break through the then almost impenetrable masculine wall of learning.
Thinking harder, working harder, she emerged into the 20th Century as a
consummate, forceful feminist, who saw the fruition of her dream of higher
education for women.
Miss Thomas was born in Baltimore in 1857 of Quaker parents, Dr.
James Carey Thomas and Mary Whitall Thomas. Her secondary education
was mainly in Quaker schools; thence she went to Cornell University where
she graduated with honors in 1877. Post-graduate: schools, practically non-
existent in America, did not accept women. By special dispensation, Johns
Hopkins enrolled her as a student, but excluded her from attending classes.
Even when she was allowed to attend a lecture, she was made to sit behind a
curtain. She was dissatisfied with the course of study afforded her there, how-
ever special, and longed for the opportunity to study in a German university,
the goal of every scholarly American young man at that time.
Arrangements were made for her to go to Germany, but Dr. Thomas,
impelled by the shocked disapproval of his friends, forbade her going. Her
mother, ever understanding, advised, ‘‘There is nothing for it, thee must cry
thyself to Germany.” Miss Thomas related in later years, “‘I cried all day and
my mother cried all night.” Her father succumbed, and Carey Thomas, then
twenty-two, embarked in 1879 with her friend, Mamie Gwinn, for the
University of Leipzig. Despite her excellent scholarship during her three years
of study, there too, her sex excluded her from sitting for a degree. Character-
istically, she turned to and was accepted at the University of Zurich in the
early summer of 1882. In November of the same year, M. Carey Thomas
became a Doctor of Philosophy, SUMMA CUM LAUDE, an honor never
before granted to a woman. Ten months later, after further travel and attend-
ing lectures at the Sorbonne, she returned to America. In 1885, she became
the first Dean of the newly opened Bryn Mawr.
From then on Miss Thomas became a pioneer and leader in women’s
education. As Dean under President Rhoads, she established the first graduate
school for women as well as the first program of graduate fellowships. With the
first graduating class, she inaugurated the Bryn Mawr European Fellowship;
and in 1893 she, with Miss Garrett, was instrumental in opening the Johns
Hopkins School of Medicine to women. Her concern for social betterment
resulted in the establishing in 1915 of the first Graduate School of Social
Economy and Social Research, and in 1922 in the founding of the first summer
school for women workers in industry. She was a leader, too, in movements to
gain women political and economic equality, and influenced many generations
of Bryn Mawr students to work for the causes she held dear.
THE REMODELING OF THE DEANERY
M. Carey Thomas, a young woman of twenty-nine, moved in 1885 into
the five-room house which was to be her home for almost five decades. With
her was Mamie Gwinn, her friend and companion from boarding school and
Germany, who later became an instructor in English. Almost immediately, it
was evident that the Deanery must be expanded to take care of books and
records and the influx of students and visitors. In 1888, two small rooms were
added to the rear of the house. In 1894, Walter Cope, the college architect
drew plans for further enlargement. The original living room (the Blue Room)
became Miss Thomas’ study. The room across the hall which was probably
the dining room became Mamie Gwinn’s “small study.’’ The house was
reoriented away from the veranda with a new entrance facing the campus.
One entered a corridor with reception rooms on the right; a dining room was
built with a wing to the northwest to accommodate an adequate pantry and
kitchen; a library and bedrooms were built on the second floor, and a third
floor was added with guest rooms and servants’ quarters. The remodeled
frame house was encased with wooden shingles as one sees it today.
For proper furniture and fittings, Lockwood de Forest was consulted. An
artist, he was a man who had traveled widely, had been affiliated with Louis
Comfort Tiffany, and was imbued, as was Miss Thomas, with the Pre-
Raphaelite ideal. It was he who planned the “‘blue study”’, and his “decorative
genius’ was to permeate the Deanery.
In 1894 Miss Thomas became President of the College. In 1904, her
friend, Mamie Gwinn, from whom she had drawn so much of her intellectual
inspiration, left Bryn Mawr and was later married. Her life-long friend, Mary
Elizabeth Garrett, heiress of a Baltimore railway magnate, came to live with
her. Miss Garrett, ever a patroness of Bryn Mawr, felt that the Deanery
should be further expanded on a lavish scale to fit the needs of its eminent
President and the fast-growing college. Walter Cope, its former architect, had
died in 1902 so Lockwood de Forest was called as a consultant. The plans were
drawn by Archer and Allen, a Philadelphia architectural firm.
As one enters today, to the right of the corridor are the rooms built in
1896, now the cloak room, Faculty Dining Room and Dining Alcove. To the
left were added in 1908 a room for a secretary, where the receptionist sits
today; Miss Thomas’ office, now the New Dining Room; a hall, now The
Lounge; and the Dorothy Vernon Room copied from Haddon Hall in Eng-
land. The north-west wing off the dining room was extended for further
kitchen facilities and storage. On the second floor, Mamie Gwinn’s small
bedroom became Miss Garrett’s huge room. Elaborate baths were built; and
on the third floor further storage space and servants’ quarters. An extensive
garden was planned by John C. Olmsted. Mr. de Forest, Miss Thomas and
Miss Garrett were responsible for the amenities of the garden.
The renovation of the building took an intolerably long time, and the
cost was twice as much as estimated. However, when the forty-six rooms were
completed, it fulfilled the President’s ambition. Here was an elegant residence
to which the most important guests could be invited; here were entertained
such personages as Henry James, Eleanora Duse, Bertrand Russell, Anna
Howard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, as well as other literary and political
figures. No one who was present will ever forget the relish with which Miss
Thomas presided over these events, nor the delight with which she led the
“general conversation.” The students, too, shared the stimulating atmosphere
and hospitality of the Deanery, at Senior receptions, and at other important
college occasions for which the house provided a glamorous background as
it does today.
Mamie Gwinn’s “sMALL stupy,” 1896.
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VIEW OF THE NORTHWEST WING OF THE DEANERY, 1896.
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Tue CORRIDOR BETWEEN THE BLUE Room AND MaMIE Gwinn’s Stupy, 1896.
Tue VERANDA, 1896.
SIDE VIEW OF THE DEANERY, 1896.
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SIDE VIEW OF THE DEANERY, 1959.
THE DEANERY’S TREASURES
With the completion of the new Deanery, Miss Thomas and Miss Garrett
became avid collectors. They traveled widely and bought enthusiastically.
The ensuing treasures today reflect not only the tastes of the period but also
the flavor of an era that is now history. Indeed, with the renascence of “‘Art
Nouveau,” the Deanery’s precious possessions may well represent the realiza-
tion of André Malraux’ musée imaginaire, a “museum without walls.”
As one enters the vestibule, the floor tiles imprinted with MAS are note-
worthy. They were made by the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, Doyles-
town, Pennsylvania. According to an old company catalogue, ‘““The method
of making the tiles is a development of ancient processes brought to America
by German colonists in the 18th Century.” The works and a museum con-
nected with it are still in existence.
As one steps inside the door, a glance at the ceiling with its original
stencil design and Tiffany lights presages the decoration of the house in the
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Tue LounceE, 1965.
Pre-Raphaelite style which culminated in the so-called ““Art Nouveau.” The
chest to the right of the door illustrates the same exotic spirit. Elaborately
carved and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, it was copied from an old chest from
Damascus. The recently acquired limestone owl opposite the door was carved
in 1963 by Charles Wallis when he was an art student.
Farther down the hall, over another Damascan chest are five oil sketches
of the Grand Canyon, painted in situ by none other than our ubiquitous Lock-
wood de Forest. There is not too much information about this provocative
man other than brief notes in WHO WAS WHO and old art annuals. Born in
1850, educated in New York and abroad, he studied art in Rome and traveled
widely in Egypt, Syria, Greece and India. In 1879, he became affiliated with
Tiffany in a company called Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists, an associa-
tion which was to continue until 1883 when the company was disbanded.
In the meantime he had set up workshops at Ahmedabad, India, for the
revival of wood carving and hand stenciling. This, of course, exemplified the
Pre-Raphaelite credo, rebelling against the “Machine Age” and Victorian
materialism and embracing an ideal of ‘‘back to nature” and the unmech-
anized way of life as expounded by Ruskin. His hand-carved furniture and
hand-cut stencils were exhibited at the First Annual Indian Exhibition at
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Tue Biue Room, 1896.
Tue Bivue Room, 1896.
Tue Biue Room, 1965.
Tue Brive Room,
Lahore, in 1882; the principal pieces were purchased by the Indian Museum,
South Kensington, which later became known as the Victoria and Albert. He
won medals for “best carving” in exhibitions in London, Chicago and St.
Louis. It would seem likely, then, that many of the Tiffany designs for walls,
furniture and tiles were brought by de Forest from Ahmedabad and Damascus.
On either side of the Damascan chest with the de Forest paintings above
are 19th Century Italian carved side chairs elaborately inlaid with ivory.
As one enters the Lounge, immediately to the left is an Italian secretary
bookcase. Queen Anne style, it is handsomely inlaid with ivory, metal and
colored woods. Interspersed through the Lounge, and unmistakable in style,
is a series of Russian bronze statue groups, (one is on the chest under the
de Forest paintings). Dating about 1870 to 1874, and signed by E. Nahoepe,
they were no doubt collected by Miss Thomas and Miss Garrett. Miss Thomas
and Miss Gwinn visited Russia in 1890, but since neither one had money
beyond the exigencies of travel, the bronzes were probably purchased later in
London or Paris.
From the Lounge and down the corridor, to the right, is the Blue Room
which has been carefully preserved in all its fin du sitcle elegance. Formerly
President Thomas’ study, this room with its “‘old blue” walls, hand-stenciled
ceiling, fire-place and furniture has been compared to the famous Peacock
Room by Whistler in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. They are
considered the two best examples of Pre-Raphaelite interiors in the United
Hanging on the walls are contemporaneous etchings by James A.
McNeill Whistler, all of which are signed with a stylized butterfly derived
from his name; he was famous not only for his paintings, but also for being
one of the great influences in the revival of etching in the late 19th Century.
Equally valuable are the graphics of Charles Meryon, an important figure in
French etching of the 19th Century. Precluded from painting by color-
blindness, melancholy, poverty stricken, demented in later life, no other artist
has depicted the streets and churches of Paris with such brilliance. Meryon
said of “Le Stryge” (to the left of the porch window), ‘‘The monster is mine,
and that of the men who built this tower of St. Jacques. He means stupidity,
cruelty, lust, hypocrisy; they have all met in that beast.”
The portrait over the fireplace was painted in recent years by Frank
Bensing from a photograph of Miss Thomas as a young girl.
One of the Deanery’s most fortunate and valuable possessions is the collec-
tion of Tiffany glass, the best pieces of which are displayed in this room. Louis
Comfort Tiffany, like his friend and one-time partner, Lockwood de Forest,
Tue Dorotuy VERNON Room, 1908.
Tue DorotuHy VERNON Room
began his career as an artist, first as a student of George Inness, later an
exponent of “Art Nouveau” and the American “‘Ash Can”’ school. In the 1876
Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, fascinated by the ornamental objects
from all over the world, he turned his attention to the decorative and applied
arts. The subtle variations of glass as a material led him to study its chemistry
and to experiment, first with windows, then inevitably with blown vases and
bowls. His earliest pieces, many of which are in our collection, were marked
“Favrile,” derived from an old English word fabrile, meaning handmade. His
inspiration was stimulated by the exotic shapes of the Orient and the brilliant
colors of Roman glass, which was a result of the iridescence of the vase surface
from centuries of burial in the ground.
Because of the superb quality of his glass, he was widely imitated here and
in Europe; no one, however, achieved his delicacy of form or the rainbow-like
nuances of color. As the recognized authority in his field, he was commissioned
to execute windows designed by Bonnard, Vuillard and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Early in his career he became a designer of interiors with such clients as
J. Taylor Johnston, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hamilton
Fish and Mark Twain. One wonders whether he personally supervised the
decoration of the Deanery with Lockwood de Forest, since most of our lighting
fixtures and lamps came from the Tiffany studios, not only here in the Blue
Room, but also throughout the house.
The porch directly behind the Blue Room, once a part of the veranda of
the original house, was open and, therefore, not very usable during the college
year. In 1959, it was enclosed to meet the growing need for a party dining
room and a private place for the faculty at coffee hour. The idea of an extra
dining room had long been a dream of Miss Adelaide Neall, who from 1945
until her death in 1957, was the mainstay of the Deanery Committee. It
seemed appropriate, then, to use funds collected in her memory for this pur-
pose and to name the new room the ‘“‘Adelaide Neall Porch.”
Looking through the porch windows, we are surrounded by the “‘green
garden.” In a letter written by Miss Thomas to an alumna, ‘John S. Olmsted
planned it [the garden] as Miss Garrett and I wanted it. Lockwood de Forest,
a decorative genius, designed the fountains.” She adds that she and Miss
Garrett found the little bronze figures around the fountains in Naples and had
them copied. It is of some interest that John Olmsted was the nephew and
stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted who had died in 1902. The latter was the
leading landscape gardener of his time, designer of Central Park in New York,
Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, and it was he who made the original land-
scape plans for Bryn Mawr’s campus.
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Tue Dorotuy VERNON Room, 1965.
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SHOWING INDIAN FURNITURE SIMILAR TO
Lockwoop DE ForEst’s APARTMENT NEw YORK
THE PIECES IN THE DoroTHy VERNON Room.
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Tue Dininc Room, 1896, BEFORE THE LOUNGE WAS ADDED.
Tue Dininc Room, 1896.
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Miss Tuomas’ BepRoom, 1896.
The two stone dogs of Foo on the main stone steps came from a Manda-
rin’s palace in Manchuria. The two crouching lions and the two phoenix on
the smaller steps were bought by Miss Thomas from a Byzantine cathedral on
an island near Venice. The Palm tiles, symbolic of immortality, set in the walls
over the fountains were from saints’ tombs in Syria and were bought in
Bagdad. The bronze cherubs around the two basins are copies of figures from
Herculaneum now in the Naples Museum. The wall fountain on the right was
copied from one in Assisi; its water spout, a stylized head, was copied from a
14th Century piece in the Germanische Museum in Nuremberg. The garden,
designed in 1907, when the Deanery was being enlarged, was planned to
preserve two trees, a cherry tree which unfortunately had to be cut down and
a unique Balkan pine which still dominates the area.
Across the hall from the Blue Room is the Dorothy Vernon room. This
was copied from the dining room of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England,
which had been a romantic Mecca of Miss Thomas during her student days
in Germany. The tiled floor came from the same Moravian Pottery and Tile
Works as those noted in the vestibule. This company was founded by Dr.
Henry Chapman Mercer. An anthropologist of national distinction, he be-
came interested in the manufacture of pottery after examining the 18th
Miss THomas’ BepRroom, 1965.
Century artifacts of Pennsylvania German settlers. In 1899, he set up his
kilns in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he developed the Moravian proc-
esses of making and decorating pottery and tiles. Subsequently, he discovered
a new way of manufacturing tiles for mural decoration and for mosaics. The
existing Mercer Museum in Doylestown was built and endowed by Dr.
Mercer for his collection of utensils and implements illustrating the industrial
history of Colonial United States. Mercer tiles may be found in the corridors
of the college library, dating about 1907 just before the final rebuilding of
Another unmistakable de Forest touch is the brass filigree panels be-
tween the beams in the ceiling which were probably cut from stencils in
Ahmedabad, as well as the exotic swing-settee, the two sets of furniture in the
alcoves and the occasional chairs interspersed throughout the room, all
brought by him from India.
The set of furniture to the left of the fireplace is decorated with perforated
brass plaques and painted stencil designs. The pieces in the right alcove are
interesting for the amazingly intricate filigree carving and figures of elephants
in relief. All the furniture is as carefully finished on the back as on the front.
The outstanding pieces of furniture in the room, however, are the pair of
tables on either side of the fireplace. Magnificent examples of the English
Regency style, they are of rosewood, inlaid with brass and date about 1805.
Unusual, too, are the old Korean chest and the floor lamp with a Rookwood
pottery base in the far corner of the room.
The antique Kurdistan carpet in the center of the room, the antique
Shiraz rug of museum quality in the far end, carved and inlaid tables from
Damascus, tabourets of teakwood from Japan as well as teakwood tables from
China blend happily with English and American furniture, and infuse the
Dorothy Vernon Room with the rich elegance of American Victorian ro-
The decorative bronzes on the sills and tables are copies of Greek and
Roman statues and works of Michaelangelo. The figure on the table in the
center of the room is the “Pan of Rohallion,”’ signed and dated, Paris, 1890 by
Frederick MacMonnies, a student of St. Gaudens. His best known pieces are
in New York City, three life-size figures of angels in the Church of St. Paul
and a statue of Nathan Hale in the City Hall Park.
The Old Dining Room which was the original dining room is now filled
with small tables; the carved, high-backed chairs, however, were Miss
Thomas’ own. The Dining Alcove and the Faculty Dining Room were
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Miss THomas’ BepRoom, 1896.
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Miss GARRETT’S BEDROOM, 1965.
reception rooms on the architect’s plans. However, in the inventory list, dated
1917, they are called the “Book Room” and “Book Room Annex.”’
If one is sufficiently imbued with the history of the Deanery and the
peregrinations of Miss Thomas, the second floor is worth a visit. The lounge
at the top of the stairs is extensively used for minor committee meetings and
“elevenses.” (Since Miss Thomas imported the title of Dean from England
and was ever an Anglophile, she would love this nomenclature for the “‘coffee-
hour.’’?) The large room to the left was the Library and is now the Alumnae
Office. To the right was Miss Thomas’ bedroom, her original room in the five-
room house, and also Miss Garrett’s bedroom which was built in 1908.
Miss Thomas’ room is substantially the same as in 1885 except for the
strips of Indian carving on the fireplace, an obvious de Forest touch; and in
1957 the end of the room was remodeled to provide a private bath. The brass
bed with its filigree designs of birds and flowers could very well have come
Miss Garrett’s room across the hall is virtually unchanged. The fireplace
is of Mercer tile and was illustrated in the old Moravian Pottery and Tile
Works catalogue. The 18th Century satinwood Adam secretary was probably
brought by her from Baltimore. One would think that the cherry wardrobe
and dressing cabinet were especially made for this room, but their origin is un-
known. The beds, of course, are Indian and are similar to Miss Thomas’. In
1957 the gigantic Garrett bathroom was divided into two baths and Miss
Thomas’ equally enormous bathroom just beyond was made into a double
bedroom, thus adding an extra room to the Deanery.
Perforce, many changes have had to be made through the years to make
a workable Alumnae House and Inn. Dark Victorian walls were brightened
to create a more cheerful atmosphere, and, in some cases, furniture has had to
be replaced. Despite the minor changes, however, the Deanery Committees
have felt a deep and sentimental obligation to preserve and maintain its
In 1922, Miss Thomas retired at the age of sixty-five. The trustees of the
College gave her life tenancy in the house which she and Miss Garrett had so
enthusiastically filled with treasures. Ten years later, after a conference with
the trustees, the Deanery and most of its contents were turned over to the
Alumnae Association as a Center and an Inn. Committees were formed to
preserve the flavor and the atmosphere created by Miss Thomas, Miss Garrett
and Mr. de Forest. Thus, Bryn Mawr, today, is fortunate and unique in having
an Alumnae Center not only overflowing with elegance and tradition, but
also a living, useful memorial to the indomitable woman who contributed so
much toward the greatness of Bryn Mawr College.
A history of the Deanery, Bryn Mawr College
A history of The Deanery, the iconic former residence of M. Casey Thomas, the first female President of the College.
Merriam, Ruth Levy (author)
24 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
North and Central America--United States--Pennsylvania--Montgomery--Bryn Mawr
LD7064 .M47 1965
A history of the Deanery--https://tripod.brynmawr.edu/permalink/01TRI_INST/1ijd0uu/alma99100937728...