The Cabrini Mansion: turning 100

By Georgiana Rushworth
April 5, 2001

Martha Dale

by Georgiana Rushworth

staff writer

It is time to celebrate the Mansion’s 100 birthday and Martha Dale will make sure the celebration is a success.

Dale has been the director of Alumni Affairs for 22 years. She makes sure to keep alumni involved with Cabrini and encourages them to participate in volunteer work and financial donations. “Alumni support is very important because they have a stake in what happens to their alma mater. With their help Cabrini is able to hire the best faculty, stay competitive with technology and maintain the library and residence halls. It is a matter of giving back, which enhances their degree,” Dale said. “The better Cabrini is, the better their degree will be.”

Dale’s office is on the second floor of the Mansion and she knows a lot about the historical landmark. Horace Trumbauer, who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art, also designed the Mansion. The Mansion was commissioned by James Paul who referred to Cabrini’s grounds as the Woodcrest Estate because of its location in the “‘woods on the crest of the Radnor hills.'”

In 1925 Mr. Paul’s heirs sold the property to John Dorrance, founder and president of the Campbell Soup Company. The Dorrance family lived in the Mansion until 1953 when Mrs. Dorrance died. The building was then sold at an auction to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and they used it as an orphanage for two years.

Sister Ursula Infante put her heart and soul into turning the Mansion into an all women’s Catholic college. She fought long and hard for her dream and finally was granted her wish. She founded Cabrini College in 1957 with approximately 32 women who all lived in the Mansion. Their sleeping rooms, library, classrooms, mail room, dining hall, chapel, and squash courts were all located in the building.

Dale said that Michael Caranfa, chief facilities officer, has great respect for the Mansion and makes sure that no harm is done when transformations take place. The Mansion can still be transformed back to its original state if desired.

Dale enthusiastically explained some of the unique characteristics of the Mansion: the amazing 81 gargoyles; a huge linen closet, which was used as a dorm room; a circular shower in the President’s Office, which jets out water from the walls; and 13 chimneys and 25 fireplaces.

The Paul family and the Dorrance family held fantastic parties for many different occasions. Usually 200 to 300 people would attend the extravagant events. One evening, the dinner table was set for 60 guests and succulent pheasant was served on a silver platter. A butler would change his outfit three times a day to have the right uniform on at all times.

Dale encourages students and their parents to attend the birthday tour of the Mansion on Sunday, May 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be a photographic retrospective of all the uses of the Mansion over the past 100 years. A Cabrini Mansion Tour will be given and light refreshments will be served.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Georgiana Rushworth

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap