The Swans of Cranbrook

For many decades, Kingswood Lake was graced with the elegant beauty of imported mute swans. Mute swans (which have orange beaks and a distinctive nob on their forehead) are not native to Michigan or even North America. Around 1870, mute swans were imported from Europe to the U.S. to adorn city parks, zoos, and large estates. In 1919, the first pair of mute swans was introduced to Michigan in Charlevoix County and by 2010, there were more than 15,500 mute swans throughout the state.

While white swans are visible in Cranbrook photographs as early as 1931, we do not know if these were imported European mute swans. The first pair appears to have arrived at Cranbrook in the early 1950s, and by 1955, a news article described eight new arrivals as a “majestic flotilla of white swans.” They joined the “old-timers” who were less than pleased with the newcomers, and in fact, spent a good deal of time hissing at them with outstretched necks.

Swans on Kingswood Lake, 1953. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Mute swans (which are not really mute) feed primarily on water plants, and can eat up to eight pounds a day! This large appetite for aquatic vegetation can reduce wetlands for native wildlife species. Since swans must have open water at all times in order to survive, Cranbrook Foundation staff either had to open up ice for them, or provide a waterfowl shed for safety. The shed was equipped with a deep bed of straw and a large tub of water.

Waterfowl Shed, 1999. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

While swans are highly intelligent, they can sometimes attack people–especially those who come close to their nesting habitats. At Cranbrook, there are no reports of swans endangering people, but there are reports of swan endangerment. Several times over the years, swans, especially the  cygnets, were killed by dogs on campus. In 1974, Robert Bowen (then director of the Institute of Science) appealed to Cranbrook to help minimize the risks to swans and allow the parent birds to raise their young as unencumbered as possible. This meant making sure that the swans had a clear path to the middle of the lake in order to escape from predators.

Swan to ‘duck’ limelight at Cranbrook. Oakland Press, Jul 20, 1980.

While it is not known exactly when mute swans were first introduced at Cranbrook, nor when the last pair was purchased, we can say with certainty that they share in our storied history and continued to survive at Cranbrook for more than forty years.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

A New Identity

In May 1930, the Cranbrook Foundation voted to appoint a board to oversee the development of the Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS) and to design a building for the Institute’s programs. Initially, CIS was a department within the Foundation, but by Dec 1931, George Gough Booth concluded that it had proven itself such an important unit in the Cranbrook educational group, that it should no longer be an activity of the Foundation. It became a separately organized trust which held title to the land and buildings and operated its programs independently.

In Dec 1935, then-CIS Director, Robert T. Hatt, wrote to well-known painter and illustrator, Rockwell Kent. Hatt had been drawn to a volume of Kent’s bookplates that he had in his collection, and asked him if he would create a new seal for the Institute. By Feb 1936 Kent submitted his final design to Hatt, stating, “it is entirely unlike both what you originally suggested and the sketch that I submitted.”

Rockwell Kent's final design for the CIS emblem, 1936.

Rockwell Kent’s final design for the CIS emblem, 1936.

In the CIS sixth annual report, Hatt described the new seal: “the triangle is the basic geometrical figure. The two figures looking respectively upwards at the stars and downwards at the earth represent the field of Science as both extensive and intensive.”

Rockwell Kent created bookplates for the Rochester (NY) Public Library, Joseph Kennedy, the Library of Congress, and many others. Kent was also a prolific illustrator. His work includes well-known editions of Moby Dick, Candide, Leaves of Grass, the Canterbury Tales, and Beowulf (among others). In addition to Kent’s enduring design legacy at CIS, his gift of archaeological relics from Greenland in 1937 was the first material from that area to be accessioned into the Institute’s collection.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

 

Photo Friday: Coming to Light

The Institute of Science photograph collection (1929-1995) is a treasure trove of fascinating images, taken by various Institute of Science staff during the course of their field research. Many of them document places that have become popular northern Michigan summer vacation destinations.

Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse, Jul 1929. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse, Jul 1929. W. Bryant Tyrrell, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

This photo was taken by naturalist W. Bryant Tyrrell who was employed by the Cranbrook Foundation in 1929 as the director of the first natural history museum, then housed in what is now known as the Academy of Art Administration building. Tyrrell worked with Brookside School students, taking them on nature walks around campus and teaching them how to build bird houses. He also taught general nature study to Cranbrook School students. Tyrrell’s field work, primarily in Michigan, led to the formation of several Institute of Science collections from which he was able to prepare exhibitions.

The W. Bryant Tyrrell Photograph Collection can be found at the Washington D.C. Community Archives. For a history of the Thunder Bay Lighthouse, see: http://www.terrypepper.com/lights/huron/thunder/

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Transcontinental Threads: Maja Andersson Wirde

One of my favorite parts of my job as an archivist is assisting researchers with locating materials in our collections. Often times a scholar will visit here with a set plan for their research project, and pre-conceived ideas about what they might find here or how the materials in our collections will support their thinking. One of my personal pleasures is when the researcher finds something new or surprising in our collections that changes their course of action. This is exciting on many levels – for them as well as for me!

In August 2015, Swedish author Marie Andersson visited Cranbrook to study the work of the Swedish weaver Maja Andersson Wirde (no relation) in preparation for a monograph on the life and work of Wirde at the request of Wirde’s family. Wirde (1873-1952), an accomplished weaver and textile designer, was asked by Loja Saarinen to come to Cranbrook in 1929 and oversee the operation of Studio Loja Saarinen which was established to design and produce all of the textiles for Kingswood School Cranbrook. As many researchers before her, Marie Andersson found her visit to Cranbrook Archives to be a revelation, and she recently wrote to me that “the Cranbrook chapter became an important part of the book, much more than I thought before I visited you.”

Maja Andersson Wirde (standing) with Loja Saarinen, Studio Loja Saarinen, ca 1930. Detroit News photograph, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Maja Andersson Wirde (standing) with Loja Saarinen, Studio Loja Saarinen, ca 1930. Detroit News photograph, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Prior to coming to Cranbrook, Maja Andersson Wirde had been employed by Handarbetes Vänner (The Friends of Handicraft) in Stockholm from 1907-1929. Her textile designs were represented in international exhibitions including Stockholm (1909 and 1930), Malmo (1914), Gothenburg (1923), and Paris (1925). However, according to Marie Andersson, Wirde’s “time spent at Cranbrook must be looked upon as the most important period” in Wirde’s life as an artist, and she created some of her most significant work while here.

So, what did Marie discover at Cranbrook Archives? Comparing photographs and documents from our collections with images of watercolor sketches from museums and archives in Sweden, Marie and I spent two days of “fantastic co-operation” in order to uncover the extent of Wirde’s contribution to the history of textiles at Cranbrook, particularly Kingswood School.

Watercolour sketch by Maja Wirde (1873-1952), Collection of Smålands Museum, Växjö, Sweden.

Watercolour sketch by Maja Wirde (1873-1952), Collection of Smålands Museum, Växjö, Sweden.

The rug for Reception Room III (Rose Lounge) in situ, Kingswood School, 1932. George Hance, photographer, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The rug for Reception Room III (Rose Lounge) in situ, Kingswood School, 1932. George Hance, photographer, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Prior to Marie’s visit, Wirde was known for her work as the shop supervisor at Studio Loja Saarinen, the weaving instructor at Kingswood School, and for her designs for several rugs and textiles for Kingswood School, including the fabric for the dining hall chairs and most notably, the large rug for the Green Lobby. However, Loja Saarinen was given credit for the rest. Now, Cranbrook can tell a more inclusive story – for we discovered that it was Maja Andersson Wirde who designed the majority of the textiles for Kingswood School – eleven rugs for lobby/reception halls, all of the curtains and rugs for the dormitory rooms, as well as curtains for the dining hall, study hall, and library! In addition, she designed rugs for the Academy of Art, Saarinen House, and George Booth’s Cranbrook Foundation Office.

While the book, “Trådar ur ett liv: textilkonstnären Maja Andersson Wirde” was published pirmarily in Swedish, there is a translation of the chapter on Cranbrook in the back, and the book features numerous images from Cranbrook Archives. We are so excited to be able to tell a more comprehensive story not only about the objects in our care, but also a key individual in our rich history.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

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

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

Photography: The Art of Our Time

croze003

Cranbrook Archives/ Mary Ann Lutowski Papers.

Most people at Cranbrook have heard of Harvey Croze (1904-1973).  From 1944-1970 he served as the primary photographer for the Cranbrook Foundation.  During his tenure here, he produced thousands of photographs, ranging from sculpture and architecture to photographs of school athletics, parties, dances, and any number of other events.  He was particularly beloved by the Cranbrook Kingswood students for his jovial personality and sense of fun. He even wrote a song called the “Cranbrook Waltz” in 1953.

croze1

Cranbrook Archives/ Mary Ann Lutowski Papers.

Croze was born in Houghton, Michigan.  Short and stocky, he sported a big, black mustache and a Leica camera.  A former long distance swimmer who tried out for the 1938 Olympic team (but did not make the cut), Croze was a painter, actor, and Dominican Republic sugar plantation supervisor before photography became his profession.  He studied modern design and photography with Nicholas Haz, took a photography course with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the Chicago Institute of Art, and studied photographic techniques with Ansel Adams in Colorado.  He acquired his photo processing skills when he worked as an apprentice in the darkrooms of Chrysler and General Motors.  And, he served on the executive committee of the Auxiliary War Photographer Service where he shot publicity photographs for the Red Cross and the service men at the USO centers during World War II.

croze002

Cranbrook Archives/ Mary Ann Lutowski Papers.

The third of the Cranbrook Foundation staff photographers, Croze was hired in Dec 1943 as photographer and operating manager of the Cranbrook Photo department.  Located in the basement of the Academy of Art Administration Building, the department provided a convenient service to the institutions and in order to provide photographs for press releases, the photo department was available 24 hours/7 days a week.  Not only did Croze take photographs and process them with his assistant Agnes LaGrone, he also taught photography to Academy of Art students and ran his own photography business on the side, primarily catering to Cranbrook-related artists.   During his 27 years at Cranbrook, Croze photographed many well-known celebrities including Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Basil Rathbone, and General MacArthur.

5496-18

Cranbrook Photo Department, 1940. Richard G. Askew, photographer.

 

Croze was also nationally recognized for his photographs and exhibited at the Detroit Historical Museum, the Flint Institute of Arts, and the Smithsonian as well as numerous one-man shows here at Cranbrook.   In 1945, he won fourth prize in the San Francisco International Color Slide Salon and in 1960 was awarded a prize in the U.S. Camera magazine photo contest.

In June 1970, Croze’s impending retirement as well as financial deficits of the department led the Cranbrook Foundation to close the photography department. The photographic files were transferred to the Cranbrook Archives where they remain today.

Leslie E. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: