The Deanery interior that Thomas and De Forest assembled was a mosaic of styles. Within the library, however, they stayed with the Collegiate Gothic look that Walter Cope originated.
The ceiling decoration of the Reading Room was De Forest's biggest project for the library. Although the architects were in favor of a wooden ceiling modeled after the Wadham College dining hall, the $16,000 estimate was out of the question. Thomas authorized De Forest to plan a painted plaster ceiling in May 1905.
We will without question paint the ceiling either now or later and we have given up all thought of a wooden ceiling, but I am anxious not to bring the matter before the Building Committee for decision until . . . we have money in hand. I think, however, it would be entirely safe to authorize you to proceed with the designs and get them off your mind.
Neither the Thomas-De Forest correspondence nor the Cope & Stewardson letters
reveal how any of the parties felt about De Forest working on Cope's building.
It was an issue for the architects, however, and no doubt contributed to their
De Forest understood what Thomas wanted for the library, but rather than directly imitate specific interiors, he took a broader approach when designing the furnishings of the reading room. "I do want the finished work [of the screen and vestibule hall] to have the real spirit of the Gothic; not necessarily a copy of one thing," De Forest wrote in May 1905.
Although unable to stretch the building budget for some things, Thomas was adamant about using beautiful materials whenever she could. Her decision to have De Forest's entrance stair railing executed in teak, rather than oak, was yet another irritation to Board of Trustees when it was discovered that she had authorized the purchase without their approval. The Building Committee minutes of May 5, 1906, note that Thomas attempted to remedy the situation by asking
. . . that the question of the payment of the extra cost of this wood ($700) be left until the completion of the Library Bldg., and if then the board thinks it right for her to pay this excess, she will do so.
The plans for furnishings, such as the reading room desks and their lamps, were assigned to De Forest. Thomas gave him practical advice in a 1905 letter: "Do remember to make [the desk barriers] high enough so that the students cannot see each other and talk over them."
When it came to a proposed gift of a fountain for the cloister garden, Thomas was confident that De Forest would produce something both attractive and energy-efficient. In 1905 she described his ideas to Marion Reilly, Chair of the Class of 1901:
Mr. Lockwood de Forest . . . suggests that it would be most in keeping with the Cloister to have in the center a basin made of cut native stone, like the stone used in the Cloister itself and that the fountain should well up in the center forming a cone. . . . This fountain will take...four horsepower or 12 1/2 amperes and can run from 7 AM until 10:30 without appreciable cost to the College.
the spring of 1912, De Forest addressed the design of commemorative plaques
that were needed, including the large tablet (now on the west cloister wall)
that listed the names of all the donors to the Library Fund. Thomas tinkered
with the design and added names until just before the final casting, causing
De Forest to complain that she was causing significant delays. A few days later,
on June 13, he apologized, saying, "Nothing would tempt me to have such
a position of College President as you have with the endless detail which never
lets up." It was the only time that he directly expressed his frustration
to her, and it seems not to have injured their long and comfortable relationship.
Lockwood De Forest - More Details
Bryn Mawr College
Campus Plan - Hutton, Vaux & Olmsted
Collegiate Gothic - Cope and Stewardson
Details & Interior - De Forest
Paving Tiles - Mercer
Decorative Sculpture - Ashbee & Miller
Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. September 21 - December 20, 2001