Photo (Shoot) Friday

In preparing for the Center’s upcoming Edible Landscapes Dinner, I came across a series of images from a photo shoot of George and Ellen Booth in the 1940s. Some images were clearly taken in the Cranbrook House Library or Oak Room, but other images were harder to place.

Here, George and Ellen are seated with a magazine, and she is examining a vase. Below (after a wardrobe change), they’re seen opening a package. While it may not look like a room we know in Cranbrook House, they’re in Mrs. Booth’s Morning Room—Mr. Booth’s old office.

With the completion of the West Wing addition to Cranbrook House in 1918, George Booth relocated his office to a larger suite of rooms beyond the grand new Library. His first office, original to the 1908 home, was converted into a Morning Room for use by Ellen. The conversion was spearheaded by the Booth children, who remodeled the space as a Christmas gift for their mother in the 1930s. Mrs. Booth apparently loved the room, and made great use of its bright, cheery atmosphere.

Ellens Morning Room 1952.jpg

Ellen Booth’s Morning Room in Cranbrook House, 1952. Cranbrook Archives.

George insisted that the renovation of his old office be reversible to the original Albert Kahn design. You can see in the photographs the seams of the panels that made up the new pale walls. In 1993, the room was returned to its original appearance as George’s office by the Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary.

The images from this photo shoot in the 1940s have been used over the years in various Cranbrook histories and publications focused on the Booths themselves. I’m appreciating the photos for showing a small glimpse into the life of Ellen and her now-gone Morning Room.

Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

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.


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.


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

Photo Friday: Tuning a Concert Grand

Hugh Gulledge patiently tunes the 1929 Steinway & Sons Model D Concert Grand in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. Photographer: Gretchen Sawatzki

Hugh Gulledge patiently tunes the piano in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. Photographer: Gretchen Sawatzki.

In 2013, the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary took action to restore the 1929 Steinway & Sons, Model D Concert Grand Piano currently housed in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. After traveling to the Steinway & Sons factory in New York, it underwent a nine-month restoration process which included a new sounding board, bridges, strings, and action components. The piano was returned this past June where it sat acclimating to the environment of the house after taking such an extensive trip and waiting to be played. This past Thursday, Hugh Gulledge, a registered piano technician put the finishing touches on the piano, tuning and voicing it for its official unveiling. On Thursday, November 20, 2014 the Concert Grand will make its public, post-restoration debut at the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary’s annual fund raising event Holiday Tables 2014

Gretchen Sawatzki, Associate Registrar

Illuminating Lives: Documenting Women in the Cranbrook Archives

In the publication Perspectives on Women’s Archives, recently released by The Society of American Archivists , editors Tanya Zanish-Belcher and Anke Voss begin their introduction with the following : “the history of women’s archives and the collecting of women’s records reflect the larger cultural and societal developments occurring in American history over the past few centuries.” This poses the question—how do we at Cranbrook document the lives of the women who worked and studied here? What can we do to actively collect the papers and records that will illuminate the lives of these women? How have their experiences contributed to our community and to the world at large?

Currently, the Cranbrook Archives has a small percentage of collections donated by women or their families that speak to these issues, including the collections of Cranbrook artists and the papers of former CEC president Lillian Bauder. However, the bulk of women’s history can be found in our institutional records. I would like to spotlight three unsung women in this blog: Helen McIlroy, Pearl Peterson, and Marjorie Bingham.

Helen McIlroy at her desk at Cranbrook House, 1950. Cranbrook Archives.

Helen McIlroy at her desk at Cranbrook House, 1950. Cranbrook Archives.

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Photo Friday: Holiday Tables

A 1988 Holiday Tables display features a candelabra and antique clock.  1988, Cranbrook Archives.

A 1988 Holiday Tables display features a candelabra and antique clock. 1988, Cranbrook Archives.

Since 1975, the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary has hosted their glamorous yearly fundraiser “Holiday Tables” in November.  An invitation to local retailers and decorators to show off their holiday decorating chops, Holiday Tables also gives participants a new view into Cranbrook House.  Filled for a brief time with contemporary and thematic design, visitors get to see what Cranbrook House looks like as a bustling house and pretend for a few short days that they live there.  Here, an exhibitor from the 1988 Holiday Tables shows off a candelabra center piece on a table in the library.

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