Anne Morrow Lindbergh: The Cranbrook Connection

The Archives has in its collection photographs of a sculpture modeled by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. How did Lindbergh come to study at Cranbrook? In April 1942, Charles Lindbergh, at the invitation of Henry Ford, came to metro-Detroit as a technical consultant to assist with retrofitting the Willow Run plant from auto manufacturing to bomber production. In July, the Lindberghs moved to Bloomfield Hills and signed a one-year lease for a furnished home then owned by Kathleen Belknap. Originally known as “Stonelea,” the home, designed by Albert Kahn in 1923, is located at the corner of Cranbrook Road and Woodward Avenue and is now known as Lyon House. The Lindberghs were quickly welcomed to the neighborhood by Carolyn Farr Booth (wife of Henry Scripps Booth). During the summer of 1943, Anne enrolled at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she studied modeling and sculpture with sculptor Janet DeCoux, and art history with Ernst Scheyer. Since Charles was away much of the time, Anne asked Janet and her partner, Eliza Miller, to move in with her to help raise her four children. Thus began a friendship among the three women that lasted until the end of Mrs. Lindbergh’s life. (Approximately fifty letters, 1944-1952, from Anne Morrow Lindbergh to DeCoux can be found in the Janet De Coux Papers at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.)

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1943. Cranbrook Archives.

At the Academy, Anne was treated not as the wife of a celebrity or even as a grieving mother, but as any other student. In her diaries (published in “War Within and Without”) Anne wrote of the freedom she experienced at Cranbrook “where people take me on faith.” Work in the studio, exhibitions at the Art Museum, and parties with music and conversation about art, books, and writing allowed Anne the freedom to “give my true self as I have never done in a group of people before.” She developed social courage and friendships with Janet and Eliza, Carl and Olga Milles, Ernst Scheyer, and neighbors like Kate Thompson Bromley. Her work as a sculptor taught her to see the world through a different lens – she learned how to sketch the human figure and transpose her ideas into her sculpture and it both surprised and excited her that she could actually see beauty in a sculpture, especially one made of her own hands. She was inspired by the natural beauty of Cranbrook, cross-country skiing on the grounds, and writing in her brown trailer in the woods. (Anne wrote her novella “The Steep Ascent” while at Cranbrook.) She relished the time with her children, and often walked them down the hill to Brookside School. Dinners with the Saarinens were exhilarating where they talked of “cities of the future.”

AnneLindbergh021

Anne Morrow Lindbergh picnicking at the Greek Theatre at Cranbrook, Jun 1944. Copyright The Detroit News.

In August 1943, Kathleen Belknap decided to sell the home, then known as Belwood, and the Lindberghs moved into a home at 411 Goodhue Road, behind Christ Church Cranbrook, for the next year. The two years spent at Cranbrook forever changed Anne spiritually. She discovered self-confidence, and that people liked her for who she was. After the Lindberghs returned to the east coast in 1944, Anne missed her Cranbrook friends and the life she had discovered here and wrote that she felt “only half alive since I left Cranbrook.” The Lindbergh family continued to return to the Detroit area to visit Charles’ mother Evangeline at her Grosse Pointe residence until she passed away in 1954. In January 1974, at the request of the Class of 1974, Kingswood School headmaster Wilfred Hemmer invited Anne to be the school’s forty-fourth commencement speaker.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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