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Cabrini College (“Woodcrest,” James W. Paul, John and Edna Dorrance House)
When Henry James coined the term “white elephants” for the out-of-date mansions of Newport, he could have been describing the great country houses of c. 1900 vintage. Fortunately, more than a few have become the basis for new institutions, enriching the Philadelphia countryside. The headquarters of Cabrini College owes its glory to two great Philadelphia fortunes, that of James W. Paul, son-in-law to financier Anthony J. Drexel, and John Dorrance, who solved the problem of condensing soup for the Campbell Soup Company that in turn put “mmm-mmm-good” in every household. Paul commissioned Trumbauer to design his immense half-timber-clad country seat. Of local schist with limestone trim and half timber on the wings and flanking the entrance, it gives the air of a house that evolved over time, though in a very ordered way. The stable, like that built at “Grey Towers” ( MO36) for William Harrison, recalls the fortified farms of Normandy then being discovered by young architects. After Paul's death, the house was acquired by the Dorrances, who removed the dark late Victorian interiors and commissioned Earl A. Belmont, Inc., to renovate the great hall, reception room, and library in the lighter hues and forms of the Elizabethan age.
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