Montgomery Avenue, Bryn Mawr
Originally designed as the Bryn Mawr Hotel for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1889 at the height of the Gilded Age, Frank Furness’s building dominates an extraordinary site in the center of Bryn Mawr. Furness scholar Michael J. Lewis, in his book, Frank Furness, Architecture and the Violent Mind, calls it “an exuberant improvisation of a chateau,” with its red brick and stone, multiple chimneys, a roof bristling with dormitories, and a magnificent apse at the center from which the two wings diverged. Furness’s genius was to design a building that celebrated the technology that made the railroad possible, so Furness’s lobby contained an astonishing display of naked iron columns and stairs rather unprecedented for the time. The Bryn Mawr Hotel quickly folded; the school leased the building in 1896 and purchased it in 1922; today, the school is as famous as the building itself.