You are here

M. Carey Thomas Library

-A A +A
1901–1904, Cope and Stewardson
  • M. Carey Thomas Library
  • M. Carey Thomas Library

The later buildings, especially the library represent the vision of the college's first woman president, M. Carey Thomas, who demanded that women's educational facilities should equal if not exceed those accorded to men. If the best was the University of Oxford, why then, Bryn Mawr would re-create Oxford. The library, later named for President Thomas, was based on the medieval dining hall of Oriel College, Oxford. It anchored Bryn Mawr in the scholastic Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the great dining hall was not a good modern library—too noisy, too disconnected from the book collection, but the great hall with its oak paneling below leaded glass windows and ornamented with a decorative painted ceiling by Winsor Soule is memorable. The low wings that extend the library into its landscape house faculty offices and frame an interior courtyard whose perimeter arcade is lined with plaques to notable “Bryn Martyrs” (as they call themselves), including a tiny plaque engraved “MCT” above the interred ashes of President M. Carey Thomas, before which burns a lantern. The courtyard is the site of the college's “Lantern Night,” when first-year students are introduced to the campus rituals. With the construction of a new library in the 1960s, Thomas has been in search of a mission. After a desultory rehabilitation by Voith and McTavish in the 1990s, it now functions as a sort of formal campus great hall, with the art history library removed to a new, lightfilled ultramodern wing by Henry Myerberg at the west end. Nonetheless, Thomas Library remains central to Bryn Mawr's self-image and forms a telling comparison to the contemporary choices of the University of Pennsylvania where Provost Charles C. Harrison was building a student union ( PH147.6) and a football stadium ( PH147.9).

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "M. Carey Thomas Library", [Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 195-195.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,