From Concept to Cover

The General Motors Technical Center is one of Eero Saarinen’s most acclaimed projects. Dedicated in 1956, the “Corporate Cranbrook” was years in development, starting with initial designs by Eliel Saarinen and J. Robert F. Swanson (with Eero consulting) in 1945.

After a hiatus in the project by GM and reorganization of the Saarinen Swanson office, Eero completely redesigned the scheme in late 1948. The new design is high modernism at its finest: clean lines, experimental materials, and a lot of flat roofs. We can see Eero’s boxy proposal here, a treasured sketch from Cranbrook Archives:

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Eero Saarinen sketch of General Motors Technical Center, Warren, Michigan, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

As the son of a world-famous architect building for one of America’s greatest companies, the project drew lots of attention well before it opened. Architectural Forum, in fact, featured the Tech Center as its cover story in July 1949. But what to show of the yet-constructed campus?

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Glen Paulsen drawing depicting Eero Saarinen’s proposed General Motors Technical Center, Saarinen Saarinen and Associates, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Eero turned to a talented young architect in his office, Glen Paulsen, to delineate the Tech Center for the magazine cover. Paulsen was known for his complex and sophisticated architectural renderings, and had worked for various firms as a renderer before coming to Saarinen’s office in 1949 as a design architect.  He sketched out several different options for Forum , and my favorite includes the entire layout of the cover, not just the buildings:

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Concept art for cover of Architectural Forum by Glen Paulsen, depicting Eero Saarinen’s proposed General Motors Technical Center, Saarinen Saarinen and Associates, 1949. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Finally, in June 1949, the magazine hit the presses with a crisp, color drawing by Glen Paulsen depicting Eero’s General Motors Tech Center.

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Architectural Forum 91, no. 1 (July 1949). Cover art by Glen Paulsen of Saarinen Saarinen and Associates. Courtesy of Cranbrook Academy of Art Library.

—Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

Of Provenance and Harmony

This is a story about the mistaken attribution of a quote, as told through the lens of archival provenance, that further deepened my own understanding and appreciation of the Cranbrook story. A researcher, referring to Cranbrook’s founder George Booth, once asked, “How did he do it? All of this! How do you motivate the finest artisans and craftsmen to come and help build a center for art and education?” It is a marvelous question, and surely one in which each inquirer may draw a different conclusion. When I get similar questions about how Cranbrook came to be, I always turn first to the words of George G. Booth himself, whether they be formalized in a trust document or business letter, crafted for a speech, or in the informal fluidity of a personal letter. Booth always acknowledged, in both his words and artistic compositions, the contributions of many, both contemporaneous and historic, in the building of Cranbrook . The image below shows a document included in the folders containing ‘Talks, 1902-1942’ in the Biographical series of the George G. Booth Papers. At some point during their administrative or archival custody, the talks were enumerated and this one is identified as number 21 with a circa date of 1936. Naturally, I have wondered exactly when and where he gave this talk.

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The Laying of a New Foundation for Cranbrook Institutions, a document included among the talks of George Gough Booth. Cranbrook Archives.

In my work at Cranbrook Archives, I have observed many times that the answers we find depend upon the phrasing or precision of the questions we ask. I have also learned to remain attentive to questions when I think I have exhausted the search, as oftentimes I have found an answer when I am no longer looking for it. I recently quoted from this talk to emphasize the trajectory from vision and ideal, through words, drawings, and activity to a tangible object or building:

“… the Cranbrook Foundation, dealing with things material and visible, rests in turn upon another foundation made up of things invisible – that is, of thought, vision, and ideals… No product of human hands exists which was not a thought before it became a thing.”

Shortly thereafter, I was researching two reference requests that took me into the Cranbrook series of the Samuel Simpson Marquis Papers, wherein I discovered the original version of the talk with pencil edits to truncate it for publication in The Cranbrook News Bulletin, September 1936. It was identified as a Commencement Address to Cranbrook School by Dr. S. S. Marquis on June 6, 1936. Along with it was a typescript version, the same as the one in Booth’s papers, and a letter from the Executive Secretary of the Cranbrook Foundation, William A. Frayer, which tells us that Marquis had encouraged Frayer to digest the talk for its publication.

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The Cranbrook News Bulletin, Vol. I, No. I, September 1936. Cranbrook Archives.

Although I had found my quote in a talk among those of George Booth, given to the Archives as part of his papers, here was definitive proof that it was actually part of an address given by Marquis! This discovery highlights the important, but sometimes misleading, concept of provenance of an archival collection, and how archivists continually refine understanding of their collections, even long after they are opened to researchers. In an archival setting, provenance relates to the administrative origin of a collection and ensures that the collection remains intact so that the records accumulated by one person or office are not intermingled with those of another. From an archival standpoint, the talk still belongs in Booth’s Papers, but will now be understood as something he collected rather than created. The principle of provenance dictates that it shall remain there, albeit with a note to advise future archivists and researchers of its authorship. We cannot know for certain how and when and by whose hand it came to be in his papers, but this new knowledge simply adds another layer to the relationship between Booth and Marquis, and the harmony of their thinking.

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Rev. Dr. Samuel Simpson Marquis, circa 1906-1915. Cranbrook Archives.

Booth had first met Marquis as the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and subsequently as visiting clergy when missionary services were conducted by Henry Wood Booth in the Meeting House (1918-1923). In October 1923, when the Meeting House began to be used for Bloomfield Hills School (later Brookside School Cranbrook), it was to Marquis that Booth turned with the idea of building a church and school. Moving to Bloomfield Hills the following year, Marquis remained part of the Cranbrook story as rector, teacher, trustee, and friend until his death in 1948.

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

 

 

Welcome Nichole Manlove, Archives Assistant!

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Cranbrook Archives welcomes our newest team member, Nichole Manlove, in the role of Archives Assistant. Nichole received her undergraduate degree in Advertising from Michigan State University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree and Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration  from Wayne State University. Prior to Cranbrook, Nichole most recently worked as a Project Archivist at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, where she helped preserve, arrange, describe, and make accessible a wide range of archival collections. Nichole has also held several interesting internships and volunteer positions with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library and Archives, and the Detroit Historical Society Collections Resource Center.

From costume design sketches, 19th century correspondence, and papers of civil rights leaders to broadcast video recordings, student scrapbooks, and architectural drawings of major area firms, Nichole has pretty much seen it all. This wealth of experience will be invaluable in her role at Cranbrook Archives, where she’ll be assisting with the care, management, and discovery of our collections. Nichole is quickly absorbing Cranbrook’s history and our Archives operations in her first few weeks. She’s already deep into arranging and describing a complex collection, and is also working on populating our new collection management system to greatly improve patron access. We are happy to have her and look forward to great things!

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

Carter for President

Recently, I discovered a few objects that had belonged to Melvyn or Sara Smith, the builders of our Frank Lloyd Wright Smith House. They were from 1976 — the year of the United States Bicentennial and a presidential election.

I discovered that the Smiths were supporters of soon-to-be President Jimmy Carter. Since we just had our presidential primary here in Michigan, I thought they were appropriate to share. 

So, why were the Smiths such big supporters of Carter? They were supporters of the Democratic Party in general.

Their son Robert Smith was the National Director of Youth Affairs for the Democratic Party in the 1970s. Melvyn and Sara held fundraisers at their home for Democratic candidates. Melvyn was a member of The President’s Club of the Democratic Party. And the Smiths attended the Inauguration of Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Melvyn and Sara Smith's invitation to the Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, January 20, 1977. Melvyn Maxwell and Sara Evelyn Smith Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Melvyn and Sara Smith’s invitation to the Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale, January 20, 1977. Melvyn Maxwell and Sara Evelyn Smith Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Marthe Julia LeLoupp

Marthe Julia LeLoupp, born October 10, 1898, in Plogoff, Finistere, France, was an original faculty member of Kingswood School, where she taught French from 1930-1956. Having completed the Diplȏme de fin d’études at the Lysée Brizeaux, Quimper, Finistere, France in 1917, LeLoupp then completed her BA at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1920. She later completed graduate work at the University of Chicago (1929-1931) where she worked on an MA Thesis: Influence du Breton sur le français régional en Bretagne. With teaching experience in schools and colleges in Minnesota, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, and Indiana, LeLoupp arrived at Cranbrook in 1930.

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Marthe LeLoupp, 19 Feb 1952. Photographer, Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives.

Correspondence with LeLoupp in the Kingswood School Records is limited but suggests that she would return to France each summer. A letter from LeLoupp, written in Paris on September 17, 1939, tells how she left America in June with ticket safely tucked in her purse for a return September 6th on the Normandie. But, the declaration of war had made this impossible and her ticket had been passed, initially to the DeGrasse to sail on the 13th and then to the Shawnee, due to depart Bordeaux on the 22nd. The Shawnee, she explains, had been, “sent to the rescue of a few hundred thousand American citizens, who are anxiously waiting for transportation westward.”  On arriving to Bordeaux on September 22, 1939, Le Loupp writes that they were told, to their great dismay, that the Shawnee would not sail until the 26th. While LeLoupp’s letters were on their way to Cranbrook, Ms. Augur [Kingswood School Headmistress, 1934-1950] was searching for LeLoupp, first sending a telegram and then consulting the American Consul. LeLoupp’s mother returns Ms. Augur’s telegram with a letter explaining her daughter’s situation. Discovering this story recently, I wondered at the extraordinary resonance with current concerns for travelers, and for those unable to complete their journeys.

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Telegram, Ms. Augur to Mlle. LeLoupp, September 23, 1939. Cranbrook Archives.

Despite the harrowing circumstances, LeLoupp did eventually make it across the Atlantic. She continued to teach French at Kingswood School until July 1956, when she writes from Bénodet in France to request to be released from her 1956-57 contract due to poor health, ending the letter, “I find it impossible to express my regret in words.” Not much else is known about LeLoupp’s time at Cranbrook, except that she lived for twelve of her years at Cranbrook in the apartments above Kingswood School, which were converted in 1945 from the ballroom known as Heaven. In the KBC [Kingswood Brookside Cranbrook] Quarterly of May 1973, LeLoupp was remembered thus,

“a “beautiful person” with a “super smile”. She was “sweet and kind” and always beautifully dressed in classic tweeds. Peering over her bi-focals at her students and reciting in her strong French accent the terrible weekly dictes that no one could understand, she was one of those who inspired her girls to excellence or accomplishment in French that is still one of Kingswood’s greatest assets”.

Laura MacNewman — Associate Archivist

 

Cranbrook-LIFE

2020 marks ninety years of temporary traveling exhibitions at Cranbrook Art Museum. Perhaps one of the best examples that brings to life this aspect of the Museum’s programs is Cranbrook’s brief but wildly successful partnership with LIFE Magazine.

The Cranbrook-LIFE Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting opened in 1940, ten years after Cranbrook Art Museum hosted its first traveling exhibition, organized by the American Union of Decorative Artists and featuring contemporary interior design. The idea of temporary traveling exhibits at Cranbrook began the same year as the permanent collection was established by founder George G. Booth. It furthered Booth’s commitment to presenting contemporary art as foremost a learning tool for Academy of Art students. It was intended “to remind our students that art is a living thing and that the record of our times is being created from day to day by the artists of this age, and in so doing perhaps to stimulate the creative spirit among those who work here.”

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Judges examine paintings in New York, April 1940. Hansel Meith, photographer. Copyright Time Inc.

Cranbrook-LIFE was a celebration of contemporary U.S. art meant to symbolize “America’s increasing responsibility as a democratic world art center.” (Life, May 27, 1940) As such, LIFE invited sixty painters, living and working in America, to submit three paintings to be voted on by a jury of six. The painters included Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, and Cranbrook’s own Zoltan Sepeshy. The jury, comprised of Sepeshy, two leading art museum directors, an editor at LIFE Magazine, a representative from the Federal Works Agency Section of Fine Arts, and a well-respected American painter and educator, convened in a New York City warehouse where they spent four hours whittling down 180 submissions to the final sixty paintings shipped to Cranbrook for the show. One of these was Grant Wood’s American Gothic! Loaned by the Art Institute of Chicago, the already famous painting appears to be the only piece in the exhibition to come from another art museum.

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Opening night attendees arrive. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

If you’re at all familiar with LIFE, you may be asking yourself why a popular weekly magazine, known for its photographic general-interest stories, would make a foray like this into the art world? According to a 1940 TIME Magazine article, in the previous three years,  “the No. 1 U.S. source of popular knowledge of U.S. art has been LIFE, which has reproduced for the man-in-the-street’s weekly dime some 452 paintings (usually in full color) by U.S. artists.” Your next question might be why it was held at Cranbrook, as opposed to, say, the newly constructed Museum of Modern Art building in New York City? Florence Davies of the Detroit News may have answered that, when she wrote at the time: “Life Magazine picked Cranbrook not only because of the enchanting setting of the place as a whole, but more particularly because it found there ‘work in progress—an atmosphere of creative activity.’”

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Academy of Art students parade through the opening night gala reminding attendees of the student exhibition simultaneously on display at the Cranbrook Pavilion. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The exhibition drew an estimated 2,500 national and international visitors in the short two weeks it was on display from May 17-June 2, 1940. Because of the size of the show, it could not be held in the current museum building on Lone Pine Road and Academy Way (Eliel Saarinen’s museum building began construction during the exhibition). And, as the Academy student exhibition was currently occupying the Cranbrook Pavilion, the decision was made to utilize the Academy’s Painting Department Studios. Opening night was a festive gala. Attendees, including George and Ellen Booth, Loja and Eliel Saarinen, Edsel B. Ford, Albert Kahn, and “1,000 Detroit socialites braved wintry winds” in formal attire. (Time, June 3, 1940)

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Marianne Strengell, Charles Eames, and Richard Reinhardt. Richard A. Askew, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Coming on the heels of the Great Depression and during the beginning months of the War in Europe, pro-American sentiment was high, as evidenced by the placement of potted American-grown tomatoes in windowsills as decoration. According to TIME Magazine, the music for the evening was by U.S. composers and refreshments included “Rhine wine flavored to taste like U.S. new-mown hay.” (!?)

Cranbrook-LIFE marks the beginning of the Cranbrook Art Museum Exhibition Records, which illuminate thirty-six years of temporary traveling exhibits, and are rife with names of renowned artists that have exhibited at Cranbrook throughout its history.

It’s not all in the past, though! Don’t miss Cranbrook Art Museum’s current traveling exhibition,  In the Vanguard: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, 1950-1969, on view until March 8, 2020.

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

Oliver LaGrone: Sculptor, Poet, Educator, and Humanitarian

Oliver LaGrone (1906 – 1995), was a sculptor, poet, educator, and humanitarian; he was also the first African-American student at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Oliver LaGrone circa 1941. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Oliver LaGrone circa 1941. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Clarence Oliver LaGrone was born December 9, 1906, in McAlester, Oklahoma Territory, to Lula Evelyn Cochran and William Lee LaGrone. William was a minister at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and an avid writer. He raised Oliver to appreciate education and his African-American heritage. As Oliver later told a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal (Cranbrook Archives):

My father was a gifted writer, and also a builder, and extremely creative. He regaled us with his poems. I was brought up in an environment like that.

In 1928, Oliver attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he studied English and economics, planning on becoming a lawyer. He left school in the summer of 1929 to help his family with their move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. After his father passed away in 1930, he chose not to return to Howard, and in 1934 he began to attend the University of New Mexico. He worked as a teaching assistant to architect-sculptor, William Emmet Burk, Jr.

Oliver graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1938 with a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology and fine arts. He was among the artists employed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1937, he created his sculpture Mercy for the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital.

It was in Albuquerque that he met and married Irmah Cooke, September 21, 1938. During the 1940 census, Oliver, Irmah, and newborn baby Lotus Joy were still living in Albuquerque, where Oliver was working as a mail carrier. However, later in 1940, the family moved to Michigan.

In the fall of 1941, at his wife’s encouragement, Oliver began studying with sculptor Carl Milles at Cranbrook Academy of Art. His tuition was covered by a scholarship from the Student Aid Foundation of Michigan. In March 1942, Oliver won a McGregor Fund scholarship for advanced study in sculpture.

Oliver LaGrone in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942 with a model of his bust of Harriet Tubman. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Oliver LaGrone in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942 with a model of his bust of Sojourner Truth. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Upon completing his studies at Cranbrook, Oliver worked a variety of jobs in order to support his family. Because of an old injury, he was not able to enlist in the Army during World War II, but in the 1940s, he worked for Ford at the Detroit Rouge Plant. It was there he came into contact with the United Auto Workers, whom he worked for from 1943 to 1948.

Oliver participated in the renaissance of black artists in Detroit. During this time he wrote his first poetry, gathering them into a collection, Footfalls (1949).

Footfalls: Poetry from America's Becoming by Oliver LaGrone. Courtesy Between the Covers.

Footfalls: Poetry from America’s Becoming by Oliver LaGrone. Courtesy Between the Covers.

During the McCarthy-era Red Scare, Oliver was asked by the Detroit Loyalty Committee to act as an informant and provide “communist” information on his contacts in the art world, particularly Paul Robeson. Oliver refused, lost his UAW job as a result, and had to sell pots and pans door-to-door to make ends meet.

He returned to school, attending Wayne State University from 1956-1960 and received the equivalent of a Master of Arts in Special Education. Oliver worked in Detroit Public schools teaching arts and crafts and special education.

Oliver LaGrone in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942 with some of his works. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Oliver LaGrone in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942 with some of his works. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Oliver was always part artist, part activist. He served for two years, 1968-1970, on the Michigan Council on the Arts. He served on the African Art Gallery Fund Committee of the Detroit Institute of Arts. From 1964 on, he was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

It occurred to me early on that you’re not going to be satisfied until you find a way to combine your art with social commentary.

In 1970, Oliver was invited to lecture in art education and Afro-American history at Pennsylvania State University. In 1972, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Vice President of undergraduate education, and in 1975, became artist-in-residence for all 21 branches of the university system. He then served as artist-in-residence at the Hershey Foundation and the Boas Arts Magnet Center for Learning in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Oliver did not limit his creativity to teaching art and creating sculptures. He also wrote and had several poems and reviews published in Negro Digest and the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Oliver was a longtime Unitarian Universalist and significantly impacted the church and the Harrisburg community by establishing the Oliver LaGrone Scholarship Fund in 1974. Proceeds from the sale of Oliver’s “The Dancer” was an early contribution to the fund.

Oliver LaGrone at work in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Oliver LaGrone at work in his studio at Cranbrook Academy of Art circa 1942. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

“Oliver LaGrone Day” was proclaimed by the mayors of Harrisburg on February 3, 1980, and again in 1993, in respect for his community contributions.

In the mid-1990s, Oliver returned to Detroit to live near his daughter and her family. Still sculpting and writing poetry, he died in October 1995 at the age of 89. There are two collections related to LaGrone in Cranbrook Archives, one donated by his daughter Lotus Johnson and the other from the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg Scholarship Committee.

Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar

Birds of a Feather …

“… the Cranbrook Foundation, dealing with things material and visible, rests in turn upon another foundation made up of things invisible – that is, of thought, vision, and ideals… No product of human hands exists which was not a thought before it became a thing.”
Rev. Dr. Samuel Simpson Marquis, “The Laying of a New Foundation for Cranbrook Institutions,” Commencement Address to Cranbrook School, June 6, 1936

The thought, vision, and ideals of George and Ellen Booth endure in the cultural community and architectural landscape that we enjoy today. One of the great joys of working in the Archives is witnessing the documentary heritage which traces the stories of the people, places, and things that contribute to Cranbrook’s history. All record types — from correspondence, financial records, and reports to written and oral memories and reflections — provide a different insight into the process of making an idea a reality.  I am particularly fond of architectural records, because it is possible to see the built campus in its earliest form. Cranbrook Archives holds a large collection of architectural drawings for the entire Cranbrook Educational Community, as well as for  projects of Cranbrook affiliated firms and architects. The drawings are arranged by division or creator and housed according to their format. One format that is housed separately are detail drawings, which include millwork details and decorative designs. They are pencil on tissue drawings preserved folded in their original envelopes, many for almost a century. I would like to share with you an example of this type of drawing, one that documents the birds sitting atop of the columns of the aisle wall stalls at Christ Church Cranbrook.

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View of the aisle wall stalls at Christ Church Cranbrook. Center for Collections and Research.

Finding sources in an archives depends upon the arrangement and description of the collections. Because of their very nature, sometimes a fair amount of detective work is required when the material being described is a visual format. Architectural drawings that have been catalogued are searchable using the Cranbrook Academy of Art library catalog, so the search most often begins there. In my case, a search for the wall stalls at the church returned seven results, none of which refer to the birds specifically. Yet, one of the descriptions suggested that there was great potential that it would include a drawing of the birds and, indeed, that is what I discovered.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659) Variants for Wall Stalls in Aisles and Paneling at Door #128 and Window #128, March 1930. Cranbrook Archives.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659), detail of the owl. Cranbrook Archives.

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Architectural drawing (AD.10.659), detail of the American robin. Cranbrook Archives.

The discussion between George Booth and Oscar Murray about the design and contract for the stalls began in early December 1929 and the stalls, carved by Irving and Casson, arrived for installation in August 1930. Booth left it to Murray’s judgment as to whether to have a continuous row of the same model for the columns or whether to include the variation. As you can see, this drawing includes two variants of tracery, four variants of corbels, and six of seven variants of birds, including the swallow, quail, dove, cat-bird, owl, and American robin. The seventh bird yet remains a mystery, leaving us something to discover in the future. Discoveries like these, and helping others achieve similar ones, make the job of a Cranbrook Archivist both enjoyable and rewarding.

– Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

[Editor’s Note: When this post was first published, the quote was attributed to George Gough Booth. Subsequent research has revealed that it is from an address by the Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Marquis.]

The Skyline is a Promise

Cranbrook Archives houses an impressive collection of motion picture films, many of which offer depictions of student life at Cranbrook Schools. These films uniquely capture what it was actually ‘like’ to be on campus at a given moment in time, and potentially present perspectives not captured in official written documentation. One such film, The Skyline is a Promise, from the Horizons-Upward Bound Records, is an excellent example.

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Filming on Cranbrook School campus, 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB) program, then in its 2nd year, was self-described as “An Experimental Enrichment Program.” In conjunction with representatives from Detroit Public Schools and Oakland County Schools, the program’s objective was to provide low-income Detroit area high school students with opportunities for future success in academics and in life. The creation of Cranbrook School teacher, Ben Snyder, who served as its director for twenty-four years, HUB was the only program of its kind at that time.

Skyline was produced, directed, and filmed by Wayne State University Audio-Visual Productions during the summer of 1966, and was intended both as a promotional piece and an educational aid. The 16-minute short film captured every aspect of the program. Raymond Maloney, a HUB English instructor from Cranbrook School, wrote of the experience in the 1966 Annual Report: “At times, the dining hall, classrooms or dormitories took on all the aspects of a movie set complete with eighty-eight willing actors.” Students not only were eager participants in front of the camera but also learned about what was involved behind the camera, thanks to one of the film’s producers.

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Wayne State University film crew, 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Funding for the film was provided by an anonymous donor, supplemented by funds from the program’s Ford Foundation grant. According to a May 25, 1966 letter, the script was written by George H. Bouwman, Director of Development, Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY. The soundtrack was a mix of guitar music, sound effects, and voice-overs from both the narrator and student interviews, also conducted by the film crew. The film’s title was taken from The Wanderer of Liverpool by John Masefield, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom (1930-1967):

Go forth to seek: the quarry never found

Is still a fever to the questing hound

The skyline is a promise, not a bound.

Beginning in the Summer of 1967, the film was circulated for a $5 rental fee throughout the U.S. (with accompanying report) to other independent schools considering establishing a similar program. Made at the suggestion of the National Association of Independent Schools, it was shown in its first year at 36 member schools in 18 states, 6 school conferences across the country, and 14 other organizations including the Education Departments of Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.

That same summer saw a watershed moment in Detroit history: civil unrest with profound ramifications for the city’s inhabitants, which included sixty Horizon students and their families. A full page in HUB’s 1967 Annual Report expresses appreciation to those who particularly helped navigate the complexities of the situation, including Detroit educators, clergy, business leaders, and local figures, such as Detroit Tigers player Al Kaline. Cranbrook would continue to have ties to Detroit institutions through its HUB program, like the relationship it formed with New Detroit in 1968. This summer, HUB will celebrate its 55th anniversary, remaining an important link between Cranbrook and its Metro Detroit neighbors.

Fifty-four years later, Skyline transcends its original intent and gives us a window into the experiences of a specific group of students at Cranbrook during a tumultuous time in our region’s history. The film, like many others in the Archives, is currently undergoing review for reformatting to digital media for access and preservation of the originals, so that their stories are not lost to future generations.

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

A New Cranbrook House

January has been busy with research for my upcoming History of American Architecture: Cranbrook in Context lecture series. In preparing for the first lecture, which examines Cranbrook House and the larger Arts and Crafts movement, I found myself deep in the Archives looking through the architectural sketches of George Booth.

Around 1932, George Booth considered converting Cranbrook House into a home for both the Art Museum and the Institute of Science. With this proposal, the Booths would need a new “Cranbrook House.”

Mr. Booth sketched two plans for building south of the existing manor home, in the meadow along Lone Pine Road.

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Caption written by George Gough Booth in pencil at a later date: “Scheme for a moderate sized residence for G.G.B. & E.S.B. on lawn directly south of Cranbrook House facing Lone Pine Road, by G.G.B. 1932 & considered in connection with plan to turn Large Residence over to Foundation for Educational Purposes. Museum—Library—School of Music, etc. etc.” Cranbrook Archives.

The simple, rectangular house is strikingly similar to the original plan of Cranbrook House from 1908 (before its 1918 and 1922 expansions), rotated 180 degrees. A front vestibule opens into a cross gallery, centered on a fireplace. Beyond is a long, 18 by 32 foot living room. A library and large dining room flank either side, with the only other public room being a reception hall.

A stairway surrounding an elevator shaft connects to a second floor with two bedrooms (one for George and one for Ellen) joined by a sitting room, again mirroring the original configuration of rooms at Cranbrook House. Even the double bay windows of the bedrooms match the double bay windows on the northern plan of Cranbrook House.

The problem of symmetrical houses is that not everything generally fits in a pleasingly symmetrical way. George’s solution to this problem, like many architects before and since, is to add a service wing for the kitchen, maids’ rooms, and storage.

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Caption written by George Gough Booth in pencil at a later date: “Suggestion for personal house (?) South of homestead.” c. 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

In what I presume to be a later sketch, the plan is further refined. Here, the vestibule sits more comfortably under the stairway, leading guests directly into the long gallery and living room beyond–one would see directly from the front door out of the living room window. The proportions of this proposed house are smaller, and the service wing substantially smaller (and even appears added on by Booth as a later sketch). The entire house is more symmetrical and regular, and there are fewer service spaces.

Had the Booths moved out of Cranbrook House, what did George envision happening with the space? Well, Booth sketched ideas of how Cranbrook House would be converted into an educational facility.

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Proposed modifications and additions to Cranbrook House, for its conversion to use by the Institute of Science and Art Museum, by George Gough Booth, c. 1932. Cranbrook Archives.

The first floor of the house remained largely intact (though another plan shows subdividing the reception hall for offices). The kitchens were to be removed and converted to galleries, and the living room and sunset porch converted to a conference room and lounge. West of the 1918 Library wing offices was to be a large room for the Cranbrook Foundation and then a very large building of smaller rooms, including a library and assembly room. It is unclear what the smaller rooms are, but in one plan, they are drawn identically to Booth’s sketches for the Institute of Science’s research wing.

detail of ggb forum2

Proposed “Forum” (Observatory) on the “Mountain” south of Cranbrook House, sketch by George Gough Booth. Detail from the above plan. Cranbrook Archives.

The idea that Booth intended portions of the house to be dedicated to the Institute is further supported by what might be my favorite of George Booth’s unrealized plans for Cranbrook House: the transformation of the reproduction Fountain of the Tritons atop the “Mountain” south of the auto court into an observatory!

new second floor

Proposed modifications to the second floor of Cranbrook House for its use as gallery space, by George Gough Booth, c. 1925-1935. Cranbrook Archives.

On the second floor, the series of family bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as the warren of service spaces, would have been cleared out, windows boarded up, and a series of interconnected galleries created. The bedrooms (not bathrooms) of George and Ellen were to remain intact as offices–previews to their use now as Cranbrook’s President’s suite of offices.

While the Booths did eventually leave Cranbrook House and its contents to the Cranbrook Foundation, they remained living in the house until their deaths in 1948 and 1949. The area where George proposed building their new residence is today the location of the Cranbrook House Parking Lot.

You never know what you’ll find in Cranbrook Archives!

Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

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