Photo Friday: Garnett’s Orange Grove

Florida, it seems, has always been a tourist destination. In 1911, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth, and their granddaughter Grace Ellen Booth visited a tourist attraction known as Dr. Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida. It was the novelty of picking oranges in “rural” St. Augustine that attracted visitors. Dr. Garnett was ready to capture a memory of your visit, installing a photography studio in his orange grove. Lewis W. Blair was the onsite photographer at Garnett’s from 1910 to 1912.

From left: Grace Ellen Booth, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth picking oranges at Garnett's Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida, 1911. Photo by Lewis W. Blair.

From left: Grace Ellen Booth, Henry Wood Booth, Clara Gagnier Booth picking oranges at Garnett’s Orange Grove in St. Augustine, Florida, 1911. Photo by Lewis W. Blair. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

This postcard was mailed to George and Ellen Booth March 14, 1911. The note read, “Just had lunch Mch 14. Grace, Gail, Ma and I went by boat this AM to north shore. Fran just learned that James is coming. We are all well today. Temp 68 – 83. H.W.B.”

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

The A-maize-ing Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, architect of the Smith House, called it his “little gem.” Many of his apprentices considered it one of the best examples of Wright’s Usonian style. So it should come as no surprise that he liked to stop by and see the Smiths when he was in Detroit.

On a visit in 1953, a luncheon was organized by Mary Palmer, Elizabeth Affleck, and Sara Smith. The Smith House was to be the site of the event. Sara Smith recalled the event in her biography, Building a Dream: The Sara Smith Story by Kathryn Watterson.

“‘Mary called me and Elizabeth Affleck and we decided to have a luncheon at my house,’ Sara says. ‘I had just been to the store and I had bought a whole lot of corn on the cob and much more fish than I could possibly use in a week.'”

The luncheon also consisted of lamb and some salads, but it was Sara’s corn that was a hit. “‘[Wright] said that one of his favorite foods was corn on the cob, and he helped himself and came over here to the built-in lounge.'”

Frank Lloyd Wright lunches on corn-on-the-cob at Smith House.

Frank Lloyd Wright lunches on corn on the cob at Smith House in 1953. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Smith Family Papers.

The funny thing was, of all the people at the house for the luncheon, no one was sitting with Wright. “‘Frank Lloyd Wright was sitting toward the end of the lounge alone and no one came near him. No one was talking to him. Then he said, ‘Isn’t anyone going to sit with me?””

“‘So some people moved in. But they didn’t stay. They would go over and say a word or two and walk away. People just don’t seem to want to go up to a genius or a great person. I don’t know whether it’s fear of something else.'”

Sara Smith in her kitchen, August 19, 1976. Photo by Joyce Seid.

Sara Smith in her kitchen, August 19, 1976. Photo by Joyce Seid. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Smith Family Papers.

“‘At the time, I was in the kitchen taking care of the dishes and the thought came to me, ‘Sara, you’re doing a Mary-Martha.’ In the bible story, Martha was the one who was always staying in the kitchen mumbling and grumbling because Mary didn’t help her. Well, there I was in the kitchen pulling a Mary-Martha, and the thought came, ‘What are you doing in the kitchen? Get in there and talk to that man.’ So I did.””

Sara and Wright discussed a number of things, including shadows and how Wright used them to best position a house to take advantage of the sun’s energy. “‘It was very interesting,’ she says, ‘and I was so grateful that I had gone over to sit with him. While we were talking, I asked him, ‘Mr. Wright, what do you consider to be your greatest design you ever made?’ His replay was ‘Why, the next one.'”

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Note: Public tours of Smith House are offered from May through November. For information about private and group tours, please contact the Center at 248.645.3307 or visit us online.

Welcome Deborah Rice, New Head Archivist!

I am quite thrilled to announce that we have an outstanding new Head Archivist (and future Kitchen Sink blogger), Deborah Rice. Let me take this opportunity to introduce her to the readers of the Kitchen Sink Blog.

Deborah has over seventeen years of experience as a professional archivist. For the past fifteen years, she has been working in Detroit at Wayne State University with the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs.  At Wayne she not only served as a Collection Archivist, Technical Services Archivist, and Audiovisual Archivist, but also the Interim Assistant Director—all of which are invaluable experience for her work here at Cranbrook. Prior to her work at Wayne, she was the Archivist for the Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library & Archives.

Deborah holds a BA in Art History from the University of Michigan and an MLIS degree (Master of Library and Information Services) and Archives Administration Certificate from Wayne State University. Equally important is what you will find to be her warm and engaging personality, and her sincere desire to engage audiences and help us make Cranbrook Archives a welcoming environment for our on-campus visitors and a digitally accessible resource for an even broader public worldwide.

In her first weeks here, Deborah has been off to a running start learning about Cranbrook history, getting a lay of the land and our extensive archival holdings, meeting with a potential donor in Lansing, and helping Cranbrook staff and our many outside researchers in our endless stream of research requests.

While there will be many opportunities to meet Deborah later this fall, her first official public event will be the Center’s gala fundraiser on Saturday, September 21: “A House Party at Cranbrook: History in the Making.”  The event, which focuses this year on the nearly 80-year journey of Cranbrook Archives, will include tours of three campus locations that have been, are, and hopefully will be important to the Archives future.  These include the current Reading Room where Deborah will be sharing with you some of the Archives’ hidden treasures.

We are grateful that Deborah made the decision to take the same journey that our founders made in 1904, traveling up Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Bloomfield Hills.  You can look forward to new blog posts from her very soon!

Greg Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

High Island Mystery

In the Cranbrook Archives Digital Collections, there are images labeled “Cranbrook Institute of Science: House of David Colony. ” I always wondered what they were all about and finally investigated. It all starts with a little island four miles west of Beaver Island in Lake Michigan: High Island.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “[High] island has an array of Michigan shoreline features and associated ecosystems that support a number of rare, threatened and endangered plant and bird species.” These include the endangered piping plover and the tern.

Robert T. Hatt (Cranbrook Institute of Science Director), Josselyn Van Tyne (University of Michigan / Cranbrook Institute of Science Trustee), and Ralph E. Morrill (University of Michigan) were on High Island on June 23, 1938, conducting bird and animal surveys. While there, they encountered the remnants of a once-thriving settlement. Hatt must have found it curious because he captured these images:

In a nutshell, High Island was home to a timber-cutting and potato farm operation run in 1912-1927 by the House of David, a religious sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan. High Island was also home to several families of Odawa fishermen. Since 1940, the island has been uninhabited.

I checked Robert T. Hatt’s “Island life: a study of the land vertebrates of the islands of eastern Lake Michigan” (Bulletin No. 27, Cranbrook Institute of Science, 1948) which details the extensive study of the animals and birds of the island, but also remarks on the island’s history:

High Island is said to have been settled by the Mormons at the time Strang’s colony flourished on adjacent Beaver Island. More recently (1912-1928), the House of David . . . established a colony . . . here and developed the agricultural and forest resources. Most of the dwelling date from this period. At the time of our visit there were three Indian families in residence, and the men operated a commercial fishing boat. A Roman Catholic chapel was on the island and was in good condition, with the alter decorated . . .

Another interesting, and unexpected, find in Cranbrook Archives!

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Note: The House of David has a storied history, one better written by others:

Michigan ’s Siberia: The House of David on High Island” by Clare E. Adkin Jr.

The Last Days of the House of David” by Adam Langer

The House of David by Christopher Siriano

Weaving Lesson: Saarinen’s Sermon on the Mount

While Kingswood alumnae will recognize Studio Loja Saarinen’s largest weaving at Cranbrook, The Festival of the May Queen, did you know there’s an even larger piece by the studio off campus?

Ordered in connection with Eliel Saarinen’s commission for the Tabernacle Church of Christ in Columbus, Indiana (today the First Christian Church), the monumental Sermon on the Mount hanging was an artistic and technical triumph completed by Studio Loja Saarinen in 1941.

First Christian Church from Progressive Architecture

Interior view of First Christian Church, showing Studio Loja Saarinen’s The Sermon on the Mount hanging. 1942. Courtesy of Progressive Architecture.

The subject was chosen by the church, and according to their archives, the Sermon on the Mount was selected as a topic because it is “the ideal for human conduct.” The tapestry, they went on, would need to suggest “worship as well as obedience.”

ccCAM2000.13 Sketch for the The Sermon on the Mount, 1941. Eliel Saarinen (attributed). Pencil, colored pencil, and gouache on paper. 26 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches. Courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Robert Saarinen Swanson.

Eliel Saarinen likely produced the sketch of the hanging, an unsigned colored pencil and gouache drawing now in Cranbrook Art Museum. Interestingly, this is the only textile with a religious subject to come out of the Saarinen studio.

The small sketch was then enlarged onto full-size paper mock-ups, which allowed the Saarinens to review and edit the design and provided direction to the weavers at the loom.

CEC1198 Loja Saarinen showing Eliel a cartoon of their tapestry, The Sermon on the Mount, April 1941. Photo by Betty Truxell. Cranbrook Archives.

Thirteen patterned and colorfully-robed worshipers in two rows stand looking toward Christ, rendered in all white yarn on a cream background. Christ is surrounded by arcs and beams of white light that masterfully descend throughout the hanging, adding a rich depth to the composition.

Sermon On The Mount Tapestry_004The Sermon on the Mount Hanging. 1941. Loja & Eliel Saarinen (designers), Lillian Holm, Ruth Ingvarson (weavers). Wool and linen with supplemental wool weft; 12 x 27’. First Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana. Photo by Hadley Fruits.

Much like The Festival of the May Queen, the weaving is subdivided asymmetrically into rectangular shapes of varying dimensions by rhythmic bands of alternating rust, coral, and gold. These lines link into the scene’s landscape, which is made up of a series of highly stylized branches connecting green and white masses. These color-blocks sometimes read like meadows or hills; in other places, the green reads like flowering shrubs, climbing vines, or a branching tree. In the lower fields are sheep, as the tapestry moves up, birds rest within the branches.

Sermon On The Mount Tapestry large_006 Detail of The Sermon on the Mount showing the lambs, branches, and worshipers. Notice the rich variety of patterning and depth of color on the figures. Photo by Hadley Fruits.

These climbing, abstract elements helps provide movement and energy to the tapestry, balancing the white radiance of the Christ-figure with the wonder of nature. The movement of the geometric green, rust, and white blocks courses between the worshipers, much like the swag of triangles (are they flowers, butterflies, or perhaps something more abstract?) that flow through the maiden’s hands in the Festival of the May Queen hanging at Kingswood.

Cranbrook_Kingswood_8-31-15-0025-dc2_TAPESTRYFestival of the May Queen hanging, 1932.
Loja & Eliel Saarinen (designers), Studio Loja Saarinen (production). Loose linen warp and weft of wool and synthetic yarns; 216 x 192.” Photo by James Haefner, Courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

The Columbus tapestry was woven by two Swedish weavers who’d worked for Studio Loja Saarinen (intermittently) since 1929: Lillian Holm, who also taught at Kingswood from 1933 until 1966, and Ruth Ingvarson. After previous projects for Loja Saarinen had been met with less-than-thorough credit given to the weavers themselves, Holm and Ingvarson demanded acknowledgement from Loja Saarinen in the press materials, as well as on the weaving itself–supposedly, Holm wove her name into the tapestry in multiple places.

After Holm and Ingvarson had completed their work at the loom, Loja worked on the hanging for weeks, unrolling it section by section on a large table in her studio and accentuating the colors through the inlay of additional threads into the primary weave. This was possible because of the discontinuous weft, known as the Handarbetes Vanner (H.V.) technique after the Stockholm school where it was developed, used in all of Studio Loja Saarinen’s large hangings.

The hanging is labeled on the reverse, with an ink-signed piece of appliqued fabric label listing Eliel, Loja, Lillian, and Ruth and their roles. Everyone’s names were also included in the invitation to the hanging’s reveal at Cranbrook in the winter of 1942, where it was displayed in the forty-foot high studio of Carl Milles.

LojaSaarinen001The Sermon on the Mount on display in Carl Milles’ Cranbrook studio. February 1942. Saarinen Family Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Cranbrook neighbor and diarist Kate Thompson Bromley described the event in February 1942:

“It had been months in the weaving…One of the biggest tapestries woven in this country, and probably as beautiful as any, for the colors are soft and rich. The large studio [Carl Milles’] was the only place with a high enough ceiling at Cranbrook to hang it. At the end of that huge room it was decorative and glowing. It must have been a great happiness to the weavers to see it in place, for as they could only judge the section on which they were working.”

Once installed in Indiana, the weaving completed the remarkable church by Eliel Saarinen. Protected by curtains meant to shield the hanging from light and smoke, The Sermon on the Mount hangs opposite a wooden organ screen, which itself reads like a tapestry. Outside, the building façade and its glass-illuminated bell tower take on the grid and rhythm of weaving. Even the meandering lines and subtle arcs of the stone architectural ornament relates back to the design of The Sermon on the Mount.

In all its beauty, The Sermon on the Mount served as a high-point on which Loja Saarinen was forced to close her studio. As she wrote to George Booth, she was being “forced into” retirement because of a number of pressures: declining commissions, her husband’s exit from the Academy’s presidency, World War II, and a shift in focus for the Academy Weaving Department away from pictorial handweaving. Studio Loja Saarinen closed in 1942.

You can learn more about Studio Loja Saarinen, her weavers, and her products; see where the works were woven on campus; and visit Kingswood’s weaving studio and dining hall on my upcoming Behind-the-Scenes: Studio Loja Saarinen, 1928-1942 tours August 22 and 29.  You can also experience the exhibition on any of our regular Saarinen House tours. If you find yourself in Indiana, see the Sermon on the Mount any Sunday at First Christian Church or through tours with Visit Columbus.

-Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

Special thanks to Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate Hadley Fruits (Photography, 1990) for the contemporary color photographs of The Sermon on the Mount and First Christian Church.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: