“His Heart and Soul into each Madonna, Saint, Commoner, or Angel”

Johannes Kirchmayer, also known as John Kirchmayer, was born March 31, 1860, in Oberammergau, Bavaria. Oberammergau is known for its Passion Play, something the whole town participates in every year it is performed. As a young man, Kirchmayer had the role of Joseph (of many-colored-coat fame) in the play. “We have the statement from John, himself, that the ‘Passion Play’ was a great influence in his early life.” (Prouty, p. 18). It meant Kirchmayer was well versed in biblical history, which would serve him well later in life.

The village of Oberammergau is also known for its long tradition of woodcarving. After he learned to carve from his grandfather, and later his Uncle Georg, a professional carver, Kirchmayer spent a number of years taking classes in Augsburg and Munich, Germany, and in London and Paris perfecting his craft. In 1880, at the age of 20, Kirchmayer moved to Boston, Massachusetts. There, he found work creating mantels, stairways, home decorations, and furniture. However, his greatest passion seems to have been ecclesiastical works, perhaps influenced by the Oberammergau Passion Plays of his youth.

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Undated portrait of Johannes Kirchmayer (1860-1930). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Kirchmayer’s friend Stanford White, an architect, introduced him to a number of other architects. He soon found work with cabinetmaking and decorating firms that were working on commissions in churches, businesses, institutions, and private homes. Kirchmayer had close working relations with a number of prominent architects and artisans and was, in 1907, a founding member of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston.

After 1898, working for the Boston furniture and architectural woodworking firm Irving and Casson, Kirchmayer worked on the buildings of the noted American Gothic-revivalist Ralph Adams Cram, a prolific architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings.

Kirchmayer’s notable work around Boston include carvings in The Church of the Advent; All Saints’ Church; the Second Church; and Unity Church. He also designed part of the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River.

His work outside the Boston area includes carvings in Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield, MA; the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, West 46th Street, New York City; St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Windsor, Ontario; the Church of the Saviour, Syracuse, New York; and the James J. Hill House, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Shirley Prouty, his biographer, wrote that “John Kirchmayer did not use drawings, charts, or schematics to immortalize his saints; He studied and planned and started with a block of wood. On this piece of oak, mahogany, boxwood, cherry (he used many kinds of wood), he would draw the nude figure. He had studied anatomy as a student in Augsburg, thereby learning to proportion arms and hands, legs and feet, and an overall balanced subject. This preliminary sketch on wood was in charcoal. Then he would draw the draperies in color as they would appear in the final rendition.” (p. 27)

George G. Booth made Kirchmayer’s acquaintance through their Arts and Crafts activities and soon became one of his most ardent patrons. Booth commissioned Kirchmayer to produce carvings for Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook House, and the Booth Collection of decorative arts at the Detroit Museum of Art.

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1918 carved portrait of George G. Booth, in Cranbrook House Library, by Kirchmayer. Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

It is said that Kirchmayer “put his heart and soul into each Madonna, saint, commoner, or angel he was carving.” (Prouty, p. 29). He also followed the old Bavarian custom of leaving one’s visage somewhere in your work.

At Christ Church Cranbrook, Kirchmayer’s works include the “Doubting Thomas Door,” which features images of the craftsmen who worked on the church, including Kirchmayer; the ornamental screen covering the wall at the back above high altar with “Triumphant Christ” at the top; the Lectern; the Chapel Doors and Lectern in the Resurrection Chapel; and a Madonna in Parish House.

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“Doubting Thomas Door,” Christ Church Cranbrook. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

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Kirchmayer left his visage as the woodcarver on the “Doubting Thomas Door”. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

At Brookside School, Kirchmayer created corbels (projections jutting out from a wall) of the four Evangelists.

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Corbel representing St. John the Evangelist at Brookside School. Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

At Cranbrook House, Kirchmayer carved many works. The largest commission was the impressive paneling of the Library, including the “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” overmantel, which featured Kirchmayer as the woodcarver.

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Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)”over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

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Detail of Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Note that the woodcarver (behind the bishop) is depicted as Kirchmayer himself. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

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Detail of Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

He also created items like a reading desk and bench; linen-fold paneling in Oak Room; a blanket chest; four carved Gothic finials in the corners of the Library; and a small figure of himself for the Booths. George G. Booth particularly enjoyed his reading desk and bench, which Kirchmayer created for the Booths’ library in 1919 from a sketch that Booth had supplied. (Prouty, p 100).

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Snapshot of Johannes Kirchmayer in front of the New Silver Beach Hotel in North Falmouth, MA, circa 1928. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Kirchmayer’s work can be found in many prominent cities: from Minneapolis-St Paul, to Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Quincy, Ohio, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New Haven, New York City, Providence, Boston, Concord and Peterborough, New Hampshire, Portland, Maine, as well as in The American Church in Manila and in Walkerville, Ontario, Canada. Perhaps his prolific work across the globe is the reason why, shortly before his death, Kirchmayer received the “Craftsmanship Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Wood Carving” by the American Institute of Architects. It is the only time the award has been given for woodcarving.

Johannes Kirchmayer died at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home in 1930.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Sources:

Johannes Kirchmayer from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kirchmayer

Mark A. Coir, Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004)

Shirley Prouty, Master Carver, Johannes Kirchmayer, 1860-1930: From Germany’s Passion Play Village to America’s Finest Sanctuaries (Portsmouth, N.H. : Peter Randall Publishers, 2007

Jessie T. Winter and the Kindergarten Movement

Many people may not be aware that Brookside School Cranbrook was on the “cutting edge” when it opened in 1922, and it was all thanks to the first and longest serving headmistress of Brookside, Ms. Jessie T. Winter.

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View of Jessie T. Winter in front of the Crane, 1922. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

In 1913, Miss Winter attended the National Kindergarten and Elementary College in Evanston, Illinois, graduating in 1915.  National Kindergarten and Elementary College trained women as kindergarten teachers, a radical concept that had taken hold in America in the late 19th Century.

Before coming to Michigan, Miss Winter was the director of a number of new schools.  After graduation, Miss Winter became director of a newly established Kindergarten-Primary school in Urbana, Illinois, where she worked until 1918.  Miss Winter then served as director of National Kindergarten and Elementary College’s Practice Kindergarten.  From 1920-1922, she was Director of the National Kindergarten and Elementary College’s Demonstration Kindergarten (now the Baker Demonstration School).  A demonstration school is an elementary or secondary school operated, in association with a university, college, for the training of future teachers.

In 1922, Miss Winter was hired by George and Ellen Booth to serve as headmistress of the Bloomfield Hills School (later renamed Brookside School Cranbrook), which opened with a class of seven children in September of that year. The Booths had acquired not only a well-educated headmistress, but also a woman who knew how to organize a school, train teachers, and adhered to an educational philosophy that mirrored the Booths’ Arts & Crafts sensibilities.

It is amazing to think that, before the kindergarten movement, play was considered a waste of time in an educational setting.

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Brookside children playing with school costumes, 1936. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

With this new philosophy, children developed fine motor skills by such activities as cutting, stringing beads, sewing on cardboard and playing with clay. They sang songs, listened to stories, and developed social skills by playing with one another.

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Students making valentines with art teacher Murray Douglas, 1944. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

Back in 1922, and continuing on through today, the students at Brookside of course learn reading, writing, math, science, geography, and spelling; but Brookside students are also encouraged to explore creative outlets like painting, printmaking, weaving, pottery, poetry, and language.

Miss Winter served as Headmistress at Brookside until her retirement in June 1961.

-Leslie S. Mio, Assistant Registrar

Summer Break in the Archives

Giuliano working with the slide collections.

Giuliano working with the slide collections.

Reviewing primary source material in the Archives.

 

Volunteering in the Archives was a great experience! As a Cranbrook grad, it was really interesting seeing how things used to be at my old school. It was especially fun seeing photos from familiar events like the fifth grade December Program, taken decades before my own class’ production. There were also of course some less familiar things, like pictures of Brookside students at the Art with goats. Personally I think Cranbrook should consider bringing that back, but maybe that’s just because I’m a fan of goats. That was one of several things I enjoyed seeing, as were photos of Amelia Earhart and even… my dad’s yearbook! All in all, it made for a great three weeks. My thanks to all the great people I worked with!

Brookside School pet show, 1936.

Brookside School pet show, 1936.

Giuliano Stefanutti, CKU ’15

Editor’s Note: We are very grateful for the work Giuliano completed when he was here. He processed slide collections, sorted historic photographs, and inventoried a large audio-visual collection. We wish him well as he heads back to college!

 

The Name Game

From the beginning of Cranbrook’s history in 1904, place names at Cranbrook have evolved and changed. Once the Booths turned the original mill pond into a lake, they named it first Glassenbury Lake (after Glassenbury, England), then it was known as Cranbrook Lake for a very short time, and ultimately Kingswood Lake. The man-made Jonah Lake (or Lake Jonah as it is also known) was originally called Lake Manitou. Brookside School was originally called Bloomfield Hills School and Cranbrook School was Cranbrook School for Boys. Although Brookside School retains its name, since 1985 when the boys and girls schools merged, they are jointly known as Cranbrook Kingswood Schools.

Building names have also changed, often due to an alteration in use or sometimes because they were dedicated to an influential or long-time faculty member.  The Garden House became the Cranbrook Pavilion and is now St. Dunstan’s Playhouse. The Cranbrook School academic building became Hoey Hall after former Headmaster Harry Hoey and what was originally called the “Arcade” is now known as the Peristyle at the Cranbrook Art Museum. Lyon House was first called Stonelea (after its owner Ralph Stone, a long-time friend of George Booth), then Belwood, then the Kyes House before being acquired by Cranbrook.

And even Cranbrook Educational Community is not our first name. In 1927, the Booths established The Cranbrook Foundation as the legal and financial entity that oversaw the then six institutions: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Cranbrook School, and Kingswood School.

So, what is really in a name? How do we name our campus buildings and landmarks going forward and what legacy will we be imparting with them?

That said, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Or should I say Bonne année? Feliz Año Nuevo? Or maybe Xin nian kuai le?

(And thank you Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton for getting me thinking about names at Cranbrook!)

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Think Snow!

Kingswood School Headmistress residence, 1955.

Kingswood School Headmistress residence, 1955.

Boys from Cranbrook School playing hockey outdoors, 1928.

Boys from Cranbrook School playing hockey outdoors, 1928.

Brookside children ice skating, 1928.

Brookside children ice skating, 1928.

Academy of Art students, Florence Chang and Margueritte Kimball cross-country skiing at Cranbrook, 1944.

Academy of Art students Florence Chang and Margueritte Kimball cross-country skiing at Cranbrook, 1944.

Christ Church Cranbrook, ca 1938.

Christ Church Cranbrook, ca 1938.

The Fascinating Notebooks of John Buckberrough

John H. Buckberrough (1874-1955), an immigrant from Ontario, Canada, was a civil engineer for the Cranbrook Foundation from 1927 until he retired in 1955. As described by Henry Scripps Booth:

Buckberrough, a slight man of medium height, started working for Swanson and Booth as that firm’s sole employee two years before Cranbrook officially employed him. That was in the firm’s tiny architectural office located in the below-road-level room of the Ram House section of Brookside’s buildings. … He became one of the first employees of what was known as the Cranbrook Architectural Office in January 1927. … Over the years he was chief surveyor, planned most of the pump rooms, transformer vaults and underground systems, kept copious notes and made detailed plans regarding changes which not only proved increasingly valuable in solving complicated problems but put to shame those who were later supposed to fill his shoes.

In addition to numerous architectural drawings that bear his signature, Buckberrough’s legacy in the Cranbrook Archives is 10 calfskin engineers’ field books, chock full of drawings and notations, covering 1926-1955.

Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Descriptions and diagrams of Cranbrook property, heating and plumbing data for Cranbrook buildings, data on Cranbrook roads and lakes, drawings of pump houses, sidewalks, lighting layouts and water lines can be found in the notebooks. Here are some examples:

Design of a bridge.

Bridge at Kingswood Lake, 1938.

Column design for fireplace in Cranbrook House living room.

Column design for fireplace in Cranbrook House living room.

The Archives’ staff often finds valuable information in the notebooks, which is used for campus restoration and renovation projects including the recent restoration of Cranbrook School Quad. Little did Buckberrough know how valuable his meticulous note-taking would prove to be. Though a search for information requires a careful page-by-page hunt, it’s a pleasant change from the impersonality of electronic resources.

Cheri Y. Gay, Archivist

To Sit or Not to Sit

Chair design at Cranbrook has always had its own special niche and fascination among artists and patrons alike. George Booth altered chair designs for his own use at Cranbrook House. Eliel Saarinen designed unique chairs for Cranbrook School and Saarinen House. Ralph Rapson conceived of his chair design for what became known as the Rapson Rocker while a student here. Most of us are familiar with the famous chair designers, but what about projects by less famous designers?

During the war years, Academy of Art students were encouraged to experiment with modern design and new and unusual materials. In 1944, Academy students Gloria Bucerzan and Jean Roberts designed and constructed a chair born of war shortages, by eliminating the use of springs and creating webbing using “non-critical” materials.

Gloria (left) and Jean with woodworking instructor Svend Steen, 1944. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Unknown student setting up work for Student Show, 1958. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

Art Room, Early Childhood Center at Brookside School, 1997. Chairs designed by Dan Hoffman, Cranbrook Architecture Office. Photograph copyright Christina Capetillo.

For more on chair design in general, check out the 2012 Year of No-Chair-Design and the Guide to Great Chair Design which features links to chair blogs, the history of chair design, museums, galleries, and books that all feature what else? Chairs!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Meeting House Inaugurated

 

Henry Wood Booth outside the Meeting House (now Brookside School)

Henry Wood Booth outside the Meeting House (now Brookside School).

On January 5, 1919, Henry Wood Booth (HWB), father of George Gough Booth (GGB), “opened the Meeting House for divine worship,” according to the historical notes of Henry Scripps Booth (HSB). HWB, who would turn 82 on January 21st, conducted a vesper service and continued to officiate for six months. The Meeting House, designed by GGB and HSB, was the foundation for what later became Brookside School.

Cheri Gay, Archivist

Happy Belated Birthday to Our Founder!

September 24th marked the 150th birthday of Cranbrook’s founder, George Gough Booth. Born in Toronto, Mr. Booth had an early interest in art and architecture. In 1881 his family moved to Detroit and he put his artistic talents to work by purchasing half of an interest in an ornamental ironworks firm. The business was successful and used many of Booth’s product designs.

George Gough Booth, ca 1876.  W. E. Lindop, photographer.  Cranbrook Archives

George Gough Booth, ca 1876. W. E. Lindop, photographer. Cranbrook Archives

In 1887 Booth married Ellen Warren Scripps, daughter of Detroit News founder James Scripps. The following year he sold his share in the ironworks business and joined the News staff as its business manager. The News blossomed under Booth’s direction, becoming one of the leading metropolitan dailies in the nation. In 1906, Booth became president of the newspaper, succeeding his father-in-law.

In 1904 George and Ellen Booth purchased a run-down 174 acre farm in Bloomfield Hills and named it Cranbrook after Booth’s ancestral town in England. Booth called upon his long-time friend, and noted Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, to prepare working drawings for the building of Cranbrook House. Kahn responded with an English Arts and Crafts inspired design the Booths moved into their new home in 1908.

In 1922, believing their country estate could serve a larger public purpose, the Booths shifted their focus toward building the six institutions at Cranbrook: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook School (for boys), Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Kingswood School (for girls). George Booth was a visionary, and with his wife Ellen, set new standards for generosity, leaving us a legacy we are proud to be a part of. Happy belated birthday George!

“We were unwilling to go through life with our aims centered mainly in the pursuit of wealth and with a devotion wholly to the ordinary opportunities for social satisfaction.  We were not willing to leave all of the more enduring joys for our children or the joy of work in so good a cause entirely to our friends after we had passed on; rather did we wish, in our day, to do what we could and give tangible expression now to our other accomplishments by adventures into a still more enduring phase of life.  We wished to see our dreams come true while we were, to the best of our ability, helping to carry on the work of creation.”  (George Gough Booth, Address at Founders Day, October 28, 1927)

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Photo Friday: Back to School in 1912

Stock certificate for the Bloomfield Hills Seminary issued in 1912/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Stock certificate for the Bloomfield Hills Seminary issued in 1912. Cranbrook Archives.

In early June of 1912 a small group of Bloomfield Hills residents assembled at the home of William T. Barbour (president of Detroit Stove Works) to discuss the formation of a small local private school. After general discussion, it was moved by George Gough Booth to establish a corporation with capital of $5,000.00 in order to establish the school. According to meeting minutes, the objectives were to “give the young people of Bloomfield Hills, and those from nearby towns, the opportunity to study in the country; to offer a course of study that will fit them for life as well as for college.” With these objectives in place, the Bloomfield Hills Seminary was incorporated in August.

Often referred to as the precursor to Brookside School, the Seminary was located on five acres at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Lone Pine, in a historic house built in 1820 by Ezra Parke. Booth, who had purchased the property in 1910, offered use of the house and added a five-class-room addition with the caveat that the property would revert back to him should the school ever close.

Mary Eade, who had been the principal of the Detroit Seminary for Girls, became the principal and taught grammar and upper level courses, including History of Art. Elizabeth K. Seward (granddaughter of William Henry Seward of the Alaska purchase fame) taught intermediate classes including French, and Winifred Eastman was responsible for the elementary age children. The coeducational day school used the Montessori method of instruction.

In 1916, the trustees voted to change the name of the school to the Bloomfield Hills School. At its peak, there were eight teachers and fifty-one students enrolled. Due in part to the resignation of Mary Eade (who resigned to do war work) and the construction of new schools in Birmingham and Pontiac, the school closed in 1918 after six years. The property reverted back to Booth who purchased all of the stock certificates back from the trustees, and later became known as the Lone Pine Inn and Tea House, but that’s another story!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist and, Gina Tecos, Archivist

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