Tranquil Still Room

“My father got me started the other day decorating and coloring a very elaborate plaster ceiling and nobody knows when I’ll get it finished.” So wrote James Scripps Booth in a letter to a favorite artist’s model Helen Knudson. The elaborate ceiling he referenced is the ceiling of the Still Room at Cranbrook House:CECT106det16George G. Booth created the Still Room as a part of his office suites in 1918. It was as a place to take a noonday rest. In old English country houses, the Still Room was a place where medicines were prepared, herbs and flowers were infused in water or oils, and where home-brewed beers and wines were made. As Henry Scripps Booth recalled in another letter, “We started applying the term to the small room at the south end of the wing although Mr. Booth had no intention of making whiskey, beer or wine, but on using it as a quiet place for reading, conversation and taking undisturbed naps.”

Commissioned by Booth, Ulysses Ricci and Anthony DiLorenzo designed the ceiling for the Still Room in 1919. The ceiling depicts classical Pompeiian figures, animals, and motifs of swags, festoons, masks, floral and foliage. The ceiling consists of four arched sections, a central medallion, and a tympanum* piece on each wall.

James Scripps Booth described his painting method for the ceiling: “I have to lie down in a steamer chair that is rigged up high on a scaffold, when I work and there is such a lot of detail design it keeps me guessing…” James painted the ceiling in blues, pinks, greens, yellows, purples, and browns against an off-white background.

Words can not describe the beauty of the ceiling. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

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Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

*tympanum is a semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, door or window

The “Bad Boys” of the Cranbrook Gardens

 

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Putto coyly peeking out from behind his hands, left knee is bent and foot is off the ground. The statue stands at the center of a cast stone birdbath (CEC 453/CEC 454). Photo by Venus Bronze Works.

 

“Putti” are little friends found throughout Cranbrook Gardens.

A Putto (singular of putti) is a representation of a cherubic infant, often shown winged.* Sometimes people refer to them as cherubs, but unlike a cherub, the putto can be wingless, like our friend above. Moreover, while cherubs are often sacred in context, putto can be non-religious.

 

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Detail of Putto in the birdbath (CEC 453/CEC 454). Photo by Venus Bronze Works.

 

This putto has been entertaining visitors to the garden for a long time. Warren and Henry Booth, and their friends, enjoyed fooling around with them.

 

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Warren S. Booth and the coy putto (CEC 453). Photo POL 2.119.2, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

 

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Friends of Henry S. Booth mess around with the same putto (CEC 453). Photo POL 2.87.2, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

* putto. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/putto (accessed: August 30, 2017).

Portrait of the Vettraino family children. From left: Dominick, Sam, John, Concetta (Connie), Rose, Annette.

Portrait of the Vettraino family children. From left: Dominick, Sam, John, Concetta (Connie), Rose, Annette.

Cranbrook Archives is excited to announce a new online collection of material that highlights the contributions of the Vettraino family at Cranbrook. The collection includes a sampling of photographs and documents of the family, as well as other Italian immigrants who worked on campus clearing the land and building roads and stone walls; maintaining the landscape; and working in the Cranbrook Fire and Police Departments.

Michael (Mike) Vettraino came to Cranbrook in 1905 to work with one of George Booth’s first landscape architects, H.J. Corfield. Mike served Cranbrook for more than 50 years and received the Founders Medal in 1955. For more than 110 years, his children and grandchildren have continued to honor his legacy, serving the Cranbrook community not only as grounds-keepers, but in many other areas of the campus. We are pleased to be able to share their amazing legacy.

Cranbrook Archives Staff

Pergola Restored!

On June 18, 2014, a treacherous storm passed through Bloomfield Hills with wind gusts of up to thirty-nine miles per hour.  At some point during the storm, a tree snapped and fell directly onto the Cranbrook House Pergola*, causing significant damage.  Much of the original redwood trellis was crushed and two of the column capitals were severely damaged. One of the columns was knocked completely off the wall.  In addition, the concrete slab and columns had been deteriorating over time due to water infiltration. Cranbrook was left with an unusable space, directly adjacent to the Sunken Garden.p1

Reconstruction of the pergola began two years later on June 6th, 2016.  The goal was to preserve as much original historic material as possible, while replacing anything that was beyond repair.

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The first step in the restoration process was to re-tuck point all the mortar in the stone walls which had deteriorated over time. All the mortar in the joints between each stone had to be chipped out and cleaned before the new mortar could be installed.  In various instances when mortar was removed, the stones would become loose.  In efforts to hold the stones in place, wood wedges would be inserted to temporarily hold rocks in place. In addition to improving the appearance, the new tuck pointed mortar provided renewed support for the walls, allowing us to remove the floor slab.

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Next, the crew removed the existing wood beam (to be reused) and began to systematically demolish the concrete wall caps and columns.  The northwest column, base and capital were left in place throughout the project as they were structurally sound.  However, the other three columns had to be demolished and rebuilt. Much of the concrete on the inside of the columns was so deteriorated that portions of it could be removed by hand.

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Demolition continued with removing the concrete slab which served as both the ceiling for a garden storage area and the floor for the pergola. Demolition of the slab was challenging because the stone walls were built on top of it, as opposed to the slab being poured abutting the walls.  The contractor had to leave notches of the slab in place to provide support and prevent the walls from collapsing. Each notch was then very carefully removed and temporary shoring was installed to prevent a cave in.

Next, the crew formed the ceiling/floor and installed rebar so the new structural slab would be much stronger than the original. When pouring the concrete, the crew had to be meticulous to ensure it was evenly placed under all the stone walls and through the cage of rebar.

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Once the slab was poured, the crew started building the column forms. Each column’s entasis, or taper, toward the top was achieved by building a wooden barrel that narrowed towards the top.  The concrete was then cast directly into the barrel. This process was very similar to how the columns were originally constructed.

As mentioned earlier, one of the beams was salvageable in its entirety. However, the other beam had to be rebuilt with about fifty percent new wood bolted to the older beam. Like the original construction, we used redwood. The contractor replaced all the purlins (or cross beams) with new redwood, using one of the original purlins to recreate the decorative pattern on each end.

After a few finishing touches, the new (and improved) Cranbrook House Pergola was completed. Many thanks to the crew involved in this restoration project, and come check it out for yourself soon!

* Cranbrook Archives was able to determine that the original pergola was intact as early as 1919.

View from Cranbrook House looking down “Hedge Alley” towards the pergola, ca 1925. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Ryan Pfeifer, Project Manager II, Cranbrook Capital Projects

Special thanks to Elizabeth Fairman (CKU ’17) for research assistance.

Putting on a Holiday Scene

Every year, the Center for Collections and Research decorates George G. Booth’s Office for the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary’s Holiday Splendor event. This year, we were inspired by the Booth children and grandchildren.

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Some of the Booth grandchildren put on a play at George and Ellen Booth’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

All children enjoy playing “dress-up” – whether in a costume or in the clothes of a family member. For George and Ellen Booth’s family, especially their youngest children Florence (“Smike”) and Henry (“Thistle”), any occasion was an excuse to dress-up – a family picnic, a visit from family or friends, the arrival of a new boat for Glastonbury Lake.

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Marjorie Booth wearing her grandmother Ellen Scripps Booth’s wedding dress, on the occasion of George and Ellen’s 50th wedding anniversary, 1937. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives

For this year’s holiday installation, we imagined the Booth grandchildren playing dress-up with clothes from their grandparent’s closet—their grandmother’s dresses and hats, costumes from performances at the Greek Theater, and other items stored in the vast closets here at Cranbrook House. Perhaps they’re putting on a play, as they did for their grandparents’ anniversary in 1937, or maybe they’re simply celebrating and having fun, as Smike and Thistle were so fond of doing in their youth.

Accompanying the five outfits, the Center decorated a small tree and the mantle with iridescent, green, and silver ornaments, drawing out the colors of Florence Booth’s green dress and a beautiful Rene Lalique (1860-1945) glass vase (before 1930) we’ve set out on the desk. In the center of the mantle we’ve displayed Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth’s Nativity (mid-20th century), sculpted by Clivia Calder Morrison (1909-2010). A Michigan native, Calder Morrison studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts with Samuel Cashwan and later at the Art Students League in New York, and this small crèche featuring the three Magi with gifts, Mary holding Jesus, and Joseph was kept in the oratory at Thornlea. Oh, and the Santa bag and hat on display were part of Henry’s costume he donned for Christmas parties here at the House!

Our display will be up through the New Year.  If you are in Cranbrook House for the Center’s piano/violin concert & book launch, Carl Milles’s Muse: Ludwig van Beethoven on December 11, or a Holiday Tea, Luncheon, or just for a meeting, please stop by and visit.

-Kevin Adkisson, Center Collections Fellow; Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Balthazar Korab and his Island of Serenity

A great portion of the time I’ve spent as an archivist at Cranbrook has focused on our photo collections. It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite photo, but I definitely find that one photographer in particular always comes to mind when I get a photo request or when I conjure up an image of campus.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, architect and photographer Balthazar Korab (1926-2013) documented life and work here at Cranbrook for several decades. His iconic images continue to be some of our most requested.

Korab at work at Eero Saarinen and Associates, 1957. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Korab at work at Eero Saarinen and Associates, 1957. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Korab studied architecture at the Polytechnicum Jozsef Nador in Budapest until he felt the necessity to escape his country’s communist regime in 1949. He opted for France, where he continued his education at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and received his degree in architecture there in 1954. During this time, Korab worked throughout Europe as a journeyman with notable architects, including Le Corbusier.

In 1955 he came to the United States and was hired by Eero Saarinen to work at Eero Saarinen and Associates (ESA). While Korab was worked there, he saw how Saarinen built models of his designs. Korab volunteered to use his knowledge of photography to develop techniques for dramatic photos of the models. This took him off the drawing board and he soon began to get assignments from other architects. What followed was an illustrious career photographing the works of many of the most significant architects world-wide, including: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gunner Birkerts, Minoru Yamasaki, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.

Yamasaki's model of the U.S. Pavilion at the World Agricultural Fair, India. Photograph by Balthazar Korab, ca 1959.

Yamasaki’s model of the U.S. Pavilion at the World Agricultural Fair, India. Photograph by Balthazar Korab, ca 1959.

Korab was introduced to Cranbrook during his time at ESA. In an interview for the Observer and Eccentric in June 1995, he said: “Arriving from a war-torn Europe, I soon was involved with Eero Saarinen’s GM Tech Center, a marvel of the dynamic, brash, wining face of America. It left me in awe and admiration. But my love went for the other Saarinen marvel, a then-middle-aged beauty, Cranbrook. It became a place of refuge and comfort, a source of nutrients for my severed roots to take hold in this strange soil. Its radiant aura was my inspiration.”

Oriental Garden bridge, Fall 1980. Copyright Balthazar Korab/Cranbrook Archives.

“Oriental Garden” bridge, Fall 1980. Copyright Balthazar Korab/Cranbrook Archives.

In the early 1980’s Korab was hired as one of several contract photographers here at Cranbrook. Over the next three decades, his images provided breath-taking panoramas, as well as minute details of the grounds, art, and architecture of this campus. The beauty of his work cannot be over-stated.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Editor’s Note: In an July 1998 article in ambassador magazine, Korab referred to Cranbrook Educational Community as his “island of serenity.”

Living among Gardens

 

Before starting at Cranbrook last month, I was a grad student at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. At both places, buildings sit in and around gardens, and both Winterthur and Cranbrook consider landscape not as secondary to their missions of education, preservation, and scholarship, but as an integral piece in the character of the institution. It makes for two very enjoyable places to live and work.

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The grounds of Winterthur Museum, on a walk I took last spring.

While I didn’t live on Winterthur’s thousand rolling acres, I did spend a lot of time traversing the grounds. Staff and students parked in the woods, with oak, poplar, and black gum trees providing a shady canopy over a bubbling stream running alongside the road. As you approached the house, the gardens became progressively more formal, with rolling lawns, specimen trees and shrubs, and eventually stone planters and flowering perennials ushering you into the museum.

Inside the museum (which was the home of Henry Francis du Pont, 1880-1969), are some one-hundred and seventy-five rooms chock-a-bloc full of American decorative and fine art from the 1640s to 1860s. One of the great joys of studying inside the house are the views out. Across the year, the views change. In winter, you might see all the way to the ponds and railroad station at the edge of the estate, in the spring, your view is foreshortened to just the snowdrop and daffodil covered embankment beneath the window.

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Winterthur’s Maple Bedroom in the fall, courtesy, Winterthur Museum

Mr. du Pont, who began collecting in the 1920s, was always concerned with color coordination in his period rooms, and when you enter certain rooms at the right moment in the year, the landscape becomes perfectly in tune with the décor. Walking through the house in the fall, the copious amounts of brown furniture sings alongside the rich colors of fall. The effect is subtle but sublime.

I’ve had much less time with the gardens at Cranbrook, but I’m already beginning to notice certain things. For one, there’s a lot more activity on Cranbrook’s 319 acre suburban campus than Winterthur’s country seat. Yet the many hands that have shaped Cranbrook have used the landscape to maintain the sense that the campus is a special place removed from the everyday.

On my walk to work, I pass from the row houses and dormitories of Academy Way to the monumental Art Museum peristyle and Orpheus Fountain, through the Ramp of the Chinese Dog and into a parking lot. (I appreciate the parking lot, it’s a reminder that even in the most beautifully designed spaces, there are still functional requirements).

But once I’ve crossed the lot, I get to my favorite spot: a long downhill path cut straight through the woods and paved in crumbling cast stone pavers. Its linearity is formal, but its worn state and its location in the woods make it feel as if one is walking down toward some long-abandoned city. At the bottom of the hill is a great swath of grass that flows toward the lake. Across the grass are stairs up and into the formal, Cranbrook House gardens.

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The view from Mr. Booth’s old office in Cranbrook house, showing the path I take to work.

My office is in Cranbrook House, and these European-style gardens, paired to the Manor-house architecture, provide some pretty amazing office views. While Winterthur’s gardens relied on color, massing, and the passing of time for effect, the gardens of Cranbrook are most impactful in their vistas. From one side of the house, offices look down a series of terraces toward the campus lake, another side over the reflecting pool, and my own view looks out over the circular court and fountain at the front of the house. These views, of course, were planned and enjoyed by George Booth, Cranbrook’s founder who lived and worked in Cranbrook House.

At both Winterthur and Cranbrook, gardens and landscapes provide a context in which to study great collections and their histories. I don’t think the value of a beautifully designed approach to your school or workplace can be overlooked—something with which I know du Pont at Winterthur, Booth at Cranbrook, and their designers agreed.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the seasons change my understanding of Cranbrook and its grounds, but for now, I’m going to head out and enjoy the perfect weather in these lovely gardens.

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Off I go to enjoy the grounds!

Kevin Adkisson Collections Fellow

Eat, Greek, and Be Merry: the Greek Theatre Turns 100!

Drama and arts and crafts have been intertwined in Detroit history for more than 100 years. Under the auspices of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC), on January 19th 1910, May Morris (daughter of William Morris) captivated a capacity crowd at the Detroit Museum of Art with her illustrated lecture “Pageantry and the Mask.” Morris’s presentation helped mark a turning point in propelling Detroit onto the national stage as an arts and crafts center. Almost immediately after May Morris left Detroit, Alexandrine McEwen, a bookplate artist and founding member of the DSAC, penned what was termed a “modern immorality play” called Everywoman with characters named “Suffrage” and “Art.” Less than a month later, she wrote The Masque of Arcadia, another outdoor play held on the grounds of Clairview, J.L. Hudson’s Grosse Pointe estate. These performances led to the DSAC being the first to foster a little theatre as part of their program.

By 1914, George Booth (the first president of the DSAC) already had plans in mind for a bathing pavilion and a theatre on the hill overlooking Cranbrook House. (My own suspicion is that he did not like the fact that the DSAC performances were not held on HIS estate!) In early 1915, Booth commissioned Canadian architect Marcus Burrowes to draw up the plans for an outdoor Greek Theatre. The open-air amphitheater, constructed of stone, seats nearly 300 people and was described in contemporary news articles as a “gem of architecture” and a “temple of art.” By May 1916, landscaping was underway and red tulips graced the front of the bathing pavilion.

Invitation Card, The Cranbrook Masque, June 1916. George Gough Booth Papers.

Invitation Card, The Cranbrook Masque, June 1916. George Gough Booth Papers.

Meanwhile, the DSAC was planning the production of The Cranbrook Masque which would also serve as the public dedication for the new Greek Theatre. The play showed the development of drama from ancient to modern times in five episodes, emulating May Morris’s lecture theme from 1910. For more on the play, see an earlier blog post.

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The Cranbrook Masque at the Greek Theatre, 1916. Hand-tinted glass slide.

Fast forward to 1991 and the 75th anniversary of the Greek Theatre. A team of dedicated Cranbrook staff, historians, and theater enthusiasts initiated the restoration of the Greek Theatre and a contemporary production, using the script from the original Masque, this time with cast members from St. Dunstan’s Guild and dancers from Jessie Sinclair’s Cranbrook Kingswood Dancers.

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Cranbrook House sunken garden (originally called the kitchen garden) with staked tomato plants, ca 1915.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Greek Theatre and a long-standing tradition of theater programs at Cranbrook. In honor of this memorable event, the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research will be presenting “Edible Landscapes: A Midsummer Night’s Dinner.”

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

A Portrait Comes Home to Cranbrook House

The portrait of Clara Gagnier Booth, mother of Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, has been mounted in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House. This painting is on long-term loan to Cranbrook from the Saginaw Art Museum, which acquired the painting through a donation from Clara Booth’s grandson, John Lord Booth I.

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Conservation in-progress, April 2013 by Kenneth B. Katz, Conservation and Museum Services.

After receiving conservation treatment and a new frame, this painting of Clara Booth will accompany that of her husband, Henry Wood Booth, as well as their son George, his wife Ellen Scripps Booth, and Ellen’s father James Edmund Scripps. Financial support from John Lord Booth II affords this opportunity to join the painting of the Booth family matriarch with those of her relatives at Cranbrook House.

The artwork was painted in 1918 by Russian-born artist Ossip Perelma, known particularly for his portraits of men of stature such as President Woodrow Wilson, King Albert I of Belgium, and several Russian and French political officials. Perelma also executed the stately portrait of Henry Wood Booth, currently on view in the Oak Room.

Demure in size and executed with soft and fluid brush strokes, Clara Booth’s portrait contrasts with that of her husband. While Henry is depicted in full length in an outdoor background, his wife is shown only by profile, with just the upper half of her torso included in the composition. The stylistic distinction between Clara’s portrait and that of her husband—and indeed many of Perelma’s other subjects—emphasizes the differing approach Perelma took to depicting a woman.

In the early twentieth century, even women of position, beauty, and culture were often removed from public view after their role as wife and mother was fulfilled, and their youth had faded. This portrait was painted when Clara Booth was 79, and it is notable that Perelma chose not to conceal his subject’s age. Indeed, the portrait is a rare and significant example of art providing legitimacy and prestige to a woman who remained elegant and strong as she reached an age when most women no longer had a public presence or were being immortalized by artists.

Both portraits, Clara Gagnier Booth and Henry Wood Booth, will be available for viewing when Cranbrook House opens for public tours on Sunday June 14th! For more information on the tours check out the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxillary website.

Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

Lighting Up Cranbrook House: Edward F. Caldwell & Co.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

This past weekend the Center for Collections and Research put on a display for Holiday Tables at Cranbrook House, organized by the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary.  Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki and I put together a display highlighting the electric lighting original to the home, focused on lamps and lighting by the Edward F. Caldwell & Company.

Cranbrook House was designed and built in 1908, and George Gough Booth always had the intention of having electric lighting throughout the home. Within the city of Detroit there had been an interest in electricity, and by 1906 there were two power plants on the Detroit River owned and operated by the Detroit Edison Company. However, with Cranbrook House being roughly 20 miles to downtown Detroit, this was an achievement. The Booth’s interest in innovation propelled them to always be ahead of their time by investing in the newly available widespread utility for their home.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

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Holiday Tables, 2014. Stefanie Dlugosz, photographer.

In the first half of the twentieth century Edward F. Caldwell & Company was America’s premier design and manufacturer for electric light fixtures. The New York firm founded in 1895 created designed and works with several prominent clients at the time including the Frick, Morgan, and Carnegie families. Much of their work was done in tandem with architectural commissions, and therefore clients like Booth were able to provide input and alter details to customize their lighting choices. Booth provided his own ideas about a few pieces for the home, but overall selected most of the pieces directly from their catalogues. During the construction and design of Cranbrook House, George G. Booth was actively involved in conversations with Albert Kahn, the architect, and many of the vendors providing goods and products for the home. Booth was enthusiastically involved in providing input on the design elements of the home, and the lighting was no different. Many of the Edward F. Caldwell & Co. catalogues can be found online through the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

 

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