Bryn Mawr students enjoy dorms like palaces

Junior Saba Qadir´s room in Rockefeller Hall. (Photo by Ashley Nguyen /
Junior Saba Qadir's room in Rockefeller Hall. (Photo by Ashley Nguyen /

Back on campus for her sophomore year, Bryn Mawr College student Hannah Smith posted an entry on her Word Vomit blog most college students would find unusual - and probably a little maddening.

Junior Saba Qadir´s room in Rockefeller Hall. (Photo by Ashley Nguyen / Gallery: Bryn Mawr students enjoy dorms like palaces
Bryn Mawr College: Most Palace-Like Dorms Video: Bryn Mawr College: Most Palace-Like Dorms

“Bryn Mawr was recently given The Princeton Review's coveted top spot under ‘Dorms Like Palaces,’” she wrote last month. “Bryn Mawr’s dorms are beautiful, but in my opinion, my current Erdman Customs Room is, dare I say it, a bit too big.”

“I don’t have nearly enough furniture to fill my room with, and the wall above my bed is so big that my Shutterfly order of 75 prints do not even begin to cover it.”

It was the second straight year Bryn Mawr’s dorms won the honor. A walk around campus finds the “Bryn Mawr College of Witchcraft and Wizardry” sign in Merion Hall to be well placed.

Underground tunnels, impressive archways, winding staircases and stained-glass windows all are part of the campus living experience, which has drawn comparisons to life in J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter.

“There are definitely really magical areas of this dorm," said junior Saba Qadir, who lives in what residents deem the “lost corridor” of Rockefeller Hall.

Old maids’ chambers, where Smith writes she is certain she lived last year, are used to create double bedrooms in some dorms like Rockefeller, Qadir said.

Freshman Isabelle Wozniak, of Swarthmore, lives in Merion Hall, the all-female school’s oldest dorm, where a piano and vintage furniture line the hall’s common room. Natural light flows from the room’s nearly floor-to-ceiling windows.

Wozniak’s quad-room boasts a fireplace, and plaques with the names of past residents hang on the dark-wood trim of the windows.

“It just feels so regal,” she said. “It helps me feel almost connected to the past because the dorms are so old.”

Philadelphia-based architect Addison Hutton designed Merion, and completed it the same year Bryn Mawr opened, in 1885.

After working with Hutton’s firm, architect Walter Cope traveled to Europe to study architecture in places like Cambridge and Oxford. On Bryn Mawr’s campus, he and partner John Stewardson implemented a Collegiate Gothic style current freshman Monica Nelson found to be refreshing.

“My brother’s college is pretty much all cement outside and very sparse on the inside,” Nelson said. “These are very beautiful and lots of fun to live in.”

Watch Ashley Nguyen discuss this story at 5:15 p.m. today (Oct. 3) on NBC Philadelphia.