M. Carey Thomas Library

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M. Carey Thomas Library
Carey Thomas from S.jpg
M. Carey Thomas Library is located in Pennsylvania
M. Carey Thomas Library
M. Carey Thomas Library is located in the US
M. Carey Thomas Library
Location Bounded by Morris, Yarrow, Wyndon and New Gulph Rds., Bryn Mawr College campus, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°1′36″N 75°18′52″W / 40.02667°N 75.31444°W / 40.02667; -75.31444Coordinates: 40°1′36″N 75°18′52″W / 40.02667°N 75.31444°W / 40.02667; -75.31444
Built 1922
Architect Walter Cope; John Stewardson
Architectural style Late Gothic Revival
NRHP Reference # 91002052
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 17, 1991[1]
Designated NHL July 17, 1991[2]

The M. Carey Thomas Library, named after Bryn Mawr's first Dean and second President, is a college library in Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania. It was in use as a library until 1970, when the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library opened. Today, it is primarily a space for performances, readings, lectures, and public gatherings.

History and description[edit]

The Great Hall, the reading room of the old library, was designed by Walter Cope (of Cope and Stewardson) in 1901 and built by Stewardson and Jamieson several years later. M. Carey Thomas played a large part in its planning, particularly by taking photographs and doing architectural research on the library's University of Oxford inspirations, and by helping the library's construction survive many hardships, such as Cope's death and financial troubles. Built with ashlar gray stone and lined with coffered oak paneling, the Great Hall was inspired by the dining hall at Wadham College, Oxford and features a king post truss ceiling painted by Lockwood de Forest with geometric renaissance patterns that continue down the wall, ending with tulip-bordered corbels situated between large, arch-shaped lead-paned windows, which flood the space with light. The tracery of the windows is also modeled after Wadham College's dining hall, albeit without Wadham's stained glass. This area was renovated and conserved by Voith & Mactavish Architects LLP.[3] Carey Thomas asked Cope specifically not to "copy the interior plan at any other college, as it was a plan worked out by us at Bryn Mawr for us own individual needs and so far as he and I knew absolutely unique."[4]

The Great Hall was once the home of an Athena Lemnia statue (damaged in 1997) that is now located in a high alcove in the Rhys Carpenter Art and Archaeology Library. A plaster cast of that Athena now stands in her place at the Great Hall.[5]

The library encloses a large open courtyard called "The Cloisters", which is the site of the College's traditional Lantern Night ceremony. The cremated remains of M. Carey Thomas and Emmy Noether are in the courtyard cloister. According to her 1985 graduation address, alumna Katharine Hepburn used to go skinny dipping in the Cloisters' fountain. A popular tradition is for undergraduates to skinny dip before graduating, and conveniently the fountain contains chlorinated water.

The building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991.[2][6]



  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "M. Carey Thomas Library". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  3. ^ Voith & Mactavish Architects LLP: Architecture Portfolio : Thomas Great Hall. Voithandmactavish.com. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  4. ^ Thomas, M. Carey. [Letter] To Cope and Stewardson. 14 April 1903. Special Collections. Mariam Coffin Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr.
  5. ^ Athena. Brynmawr.edu. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
  6. ^ "Photos from 1936, 1980, 1983, and undated, to accompany National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: M. Carey Thomas Library (text not available)" (pdf). National Park Service.