Cranbrook, Unseen: My Senior May Experience

When I first visited Cranbrook on a snowy January day, the campus felt magical. I knew nothing about its history—not of the Booths, Saarinens, Milles. Yet when I pulled open the heavy leaded glass doors and stepped into a green-tiled lobby, I was in awe of its beauty.

Desai Wang, CKU ‘19, with Jim Miller-Melberg’s Porpoise play structure at the Cranbrook Middle School for Boys.

Desai Wang, CKU ‘19, with Jim Miller-Melberg’s Porpoise play structure at the Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Boys. Photo Kevin Adkisson.

For the past three years, I have been fortunate to study here and to call Kingswood dorms my home. The names previously foreign now ring close to heart.

Or do they?

As senior year came to a close, I realized that perhaps my understanding was no more than the facts handed to Gold Key student tour guides. I knew “the names,” and roughly, their accomplishments, but not why; I did not know their stories.  

I knew I wanted to use my Senior May Project to better understand Cranbrook. My wish was vague, and if asked to define it I probably would have said something about wanting to learn more about the buildings and “the names.” As my three-week internship with the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research comes to an end, I think my time working with Mrs. Mio and Mr. Adkisson can be summarized by one word: unseen.

I finally toured Cranbrook House, Saarinen House, and the Smith House, and the past three weeks were filled with discoveries of details I never noticed before. However, I think the most important thing the Center gave me is a change in perspective.

Previously, my interest rested directly on what was visible: the existing architecture, their designers and their history. But, as trips to Cranbrook Archives proved, plans unbuilt are just important as those built. I saw George Booth’s plan for a school attached to Christ Church, Saarinen’s original designs for the Institute of Science and Academy of Art (only parts were realized for both), the multi-story elevations for Gordon Hall of Science, and a guest house proposed by John Hejduck that would have sat behind Lake Jonah.

Further, I was introduced to Cranbrook beyond its schools and museums. I joined Eastern Michigan University historic preservation students as they surveyed Tower Cottage and Lyon House. The former previously hosted a water tower, Cranbrook’s fire truck, and apartments that were in use through the 1980s. The latter was a family home built in the 1920s and acquired by Cranbrook almost twenty years ago. Both historic buildings have been repainted many times, so a paint analysis was performed. I found the process of slicing out small pieces of the buildings, analyzing them under a microscope, and studying the layers of paint and dirt to determine original colors, exciting. For the Tower Cottage window frames, layers of green appeared under the current brown.

Ron Koenig, the owner of Building Arts & Conservation, takes samples of paint on the window frame at Tower Cottage.

Ron Koenig, the owner of Building Arts & Conservation, takes samples of paint on the window frame at Tower Cottage. Photo Desai Wang, CKU ’19.

Most importantly, I saw Cranbrook from behind the scenes. I spent some of my first week scanning photographs and slides of Andrea Arens, a local artist who wove pillows for the Smith House.

Slide of Andrea Arens's pillows on display on the bench in Smith House. Courtesy Arens Family.

Slide of Andrea Arens’s pillows on display on the bench in Smith House. Courtesy Arens Family.

Yet the small stack of material I digitized is nothing compared to the cabinets after cabinets of pictures and files stored in the Archives. Just thinking about the amount of time it took to digitize my small binder sends a shiver through my spine about how much work it takes to digitize records, and about just how vast the collections of Cranbrook Archives are.

Scanning aside, at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Smith House Mr. Adkisson, Mrs. Mio and I cleaned the Smiths’ exterior cabinets and organized a closet full of their pamphlets and magazines. We vacuumed and moved around artworks so UV protection film could be installed on windows to prevent further textile damages.

One day, we drove to Ken Katz’s conservation studio in Detroit to deliver a wood panel painting, a lamp, and a jade piece—all in need of restoration. Mrs. Mio and I applied inventory numbers to George and Ellen Booth’s silverware and china, and we even scrubbed Menelaus with Elephant Snot (a cleaning product).

Ken Katz, Mrs. Mio, and Mr. Adkisson discuss restoration plans for the painting on wood panels— Flora, Ceres, Pomona (Three Goddesses) by Corrado Scapecchi.

Ken Katz, Mrs. Mio, and Mr. Adkisson discuss restoration plans for the painting on wood panels— Flora, Ceres, Pomona (Three Goddesses) by Corrado Scapecchi. Photo Desai Wang, CKU ’19.

Desai, brushing Elephant Snot onto Menelaus.

Desai, brushing Elephant Snot onto Menelaus. Photo Leslie Mio.

I feel privileged to have organized items in a Frank Lloyd Wright house-museum, handled art created by famous painters, sculptors and ceramicists, and labeled plates and spoons that were used by the Booths. Above all, I am grateful to have met some of the people who dedicate themselves to preserving and sustaining Cranbrook’s history and beauty.

Desai, applying removable adhesive on Booths’ saucers to attach inventory numbers.

Desai, applying removable adhesive on Booths’ saucers to attach inventory numbers. Photo Leslie Mio.

Mr. Adkisson, at Smith House, organizing Smiths’ pamphlets, brochures and magazines.

Mr. Adkisson, at Smith House, organizing Smiths’ pamphlets, brochures and magazines. Photo Desai Wang, CKU ’19.

Three years ago, I opened a door that led me to Cranbrook, and to my interest in its past. Three weeks ago, I opened a door that led beyond history and urged me to see the present. I leave here with “the names,” some stories, but most importantly, acknowledgment and appreciation of the ongoing work that keeps this place running.

Desai Wang CKU ‘19

Editor’s NoteThe Senior May Project is a school-sponsored activity that encourages Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School seniors to acquire work experience in a field they are considering as a college major, a potential profession, and/or as a personal interest.

A native of Xi’an, China and Ann Arbor, Desai Wang has been a boarding student at Cranbrook since 2016. This fall, she will head off to Cornell University to study architecture. We thank her for her willingness to assist in projects across campus and her enthusiasm for Cranbrook history. We wish her luck as she embarks on another chapter of her life!

Photo Friday: Aim High and Go Forth to Serve!

Congratulations Cranbrook Kingswood Seniors!  The following was printed in the 1931 The Crane as part of a farewell editorial to the senior class from Cranbrook School student Mark Beltaire ’33:

“The world is the only fitting arena for your triumphs, and we, who expect to follow say ‘Be brave, be honorable, and above all, be sincere!’ “

13308480_2088253607980586_2660547594468063864_o

Kingswood School Commencement, 1983. Richard Hirneisen, photographer.

 

IMG_9992

Cranbrook School Commencement, 1963. Harvey Croze, photographer.

 

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

Football Friday

The campus is getting ready to welcome students back to school in a couple of weeks. However, many athletic teams, including the Crane football team, have already started practicing and even had a pre-season scrimmage yesterday at the Thompson Oval. Many people might not know that the Detroit Lions held their Training Camp on the Cranbrook campus from 1934-1941 and from 1957-1974.

Newspaper article from 7 Aug 1960.

Article from the Detroit News, 7 Aug 1960.

Note for Sports Fans: the Cranes’ first league game is against Cabrini High School on September 3rd.  The Lions play their first regular season game on September 13th.

A view of the Cranbrook School Athletic field. Photographer Taro Yamasaki, Cranbrook Archives.

A view of the Cranbrook School Athletic field. Photographer Taro Yamasaki, Cranbrook Archives.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

I Have a Crush on James Scripps Booth

After the second week of May, I readily began my Senior May Project, an intensive program that allows second semester seniors to explore a field of study for three weeks. Pulling open the imposing silver doors of the Cranbrook Archives on my first day, I had no idea what truly occurred on the other side. As I, with the fumbling hands of a novice, used fundamental archival tools such as finding aids, vertical and photo files, indexes, backlogs, and the digital image database over the course of the three weeks, I began to understand what an archivist does behind those argent doors.

Margaret Harney, CKU '15

Margaret Harney, CKU ’15

Honestly, it is a lot of filing. Archivists receive chaotic and often decaying papers, photographs, and other documents deemed worthy of being preserved, and they organize them into various categorizes and topics. Everything has a place, and that place is well recorded in differing indexes and inventories. As a person whose nickname as a child was “Messy Meg,” I inevitably struggled to learn the complex organizational system. Often, I would stand in a dim corner of the archives, afraid of disarranging the gray archival boxes like some omnipotent entropic force, or a two-year-old. Thus, in the second week when I was tasked with organizing three filing cabinets of photographs from Cranbrook Kingswood post-merger, I inwardly panicked. Once I removed the folders, I discovered that they were in complete disarray from the disinterested teenager who had supposedly organized the cabinets before me. While their quite arrogant lack of effort often made me want to pry my muscles from my bones, it also relieved my anxiety, for I knew no matter how badly I mismanaged the cabinets, it would never be nearly as appalling as it was prior.

Study for Blessed Damozel, 1920.  James Scripps Booth

Study for Blessed Damozel, 1920. James Scripps Booth

After finishing the cabinets, I helped Ms. Edwards rummage for posters in the metallic archive vaults, and there in James Scripps Booth’s yellowing, rigid pastels, I discovered why an archivist undertakes all that grueling and mind-numbing filing. Beneath the waxy paper shielding the drawings, nude female figures innocently and exquisitely revealed themselves among impatient pastel strokes. While I was beguiled by the striking beauty of the sketches, I was equally as captivated by their ability to reveal the whims of Booth. Thus, not only the women, but Booth as well lay exposed. Such drawings and degenerating documents that archivists strive to preserve are like little vitrines displaying various aspects of the past. Each frame depicts a story and when all the frames combine, a larger impression is formed. Like an ink blot, this impression allows the viewer to decide what the greater story is. The ability to interpret the past for yourself is a rare and remarkable privilege, and that was the greatest gift my time in the archives gave me.

Cranbrook House, 1917.  James Scripps Booth

Cranbrook House, 1917. James Scripps Booth

Margaret Harney, CKU ’15

The Kingswood Riding Club (1939-1943)

Shortly after the opening of Kingswood School for Girls in the fall of 1931, headmistress Katherine Adams reported that horseback riding would be a part of the physical education program, due in large part to the cooperation of nearby Bloomfield Open Hunt Club.  Several of the girls already boarded horses in nearby stables, including the Hunt Club. The Kingswood Riding Club was officially established in 1939 and the school catalog outlined that girls would ride on the Hunt Club’s bridle paths in spring and fall, and in the covered ring during winter months.  Girls rode on Wednesday afternoons as part of “club day” but the sport quickly became so popular that they also rode on Sunday mornings.  In the spring of 1940, Cranbrook School boys joined the girls for the Sunday morning rides, during which they enjoyed breakfast at the Club House.

Kingswood Riding Club

Kingswood Riding Club, 11 Oct 1939. Cranbrook Archives.

By the fall of 1940, the club had grown to 26 members and met on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Katherine Unger, of Walled Lake, was hired to “teach the riding club the fine points of riding and horsemanship”, and in the spring of 1941, the Kingswood Riding Club held its first horse show.  Riding took place at nearby Bloomfield Hunt Club and at the Outland Riding Stables (located on 14 Mile Road) where there was an inside ring. The following spring, the Kingswood Riding Club held its first horse show.

In September 1941, Unger expressed hope that 1-2 indoor shows would be held during the winter, and that more girls would own horses. “The school horses are all right for beginners but as was so apparent at the show the girls who had their own mounts made the best showing.”  Headmistress Margaret Augur felt the school could not encourage horse ownership (due to the added expense for the girls) and worried that competitions would become a “rich girl’s sport” and thus, a bad tendency for the school.

Horse Show

The 2nd annual Kingswood Horse Show, 20 May 1942. Cranbrook Archives.

The second annual Kingswood Horse Show was held on May 20, 1942 at Outland Riding Stable with judged competitions and an awards presentation.  Virginia McCullough won first place in all of the classes she entered – Hunters Class, 3 Foot Jump, Horsemanship for Owners, Open Jumping 3’6” and Hunter Hacks. Phyllis Klinger took first in the Three-gaited Class and Anita Bray for Horsemanship for Non-Owners.  During the fall of 1942, the girls planned a spring horse show but by December, gas rationing due to World War II meant that the girls were unable to secure taxis to the stables.  By March 1943, taxi service was discontinued and even though riding continued to appear as a sport in the school catalog until 1947, the club was never reinstated.

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

The Case of the Bogdani

The other night I saw the most interesting show on PBS called “Fake or Forgery.” An investigative journalist and two noted art sleuths joined forces with cutting edge scientists to discover the truth behind a painting the owner thought to be a Degas. They thoroughly searched the provenance of the painting, and used scientific methods like X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine if the pigments used in the painting were compatible with Degas’ known palette. It made me think of the many works of art across the Cranbrook campus that could benefit from in-depth scientific research like this. And, it prompted me to relay the story of a discovery the archives staff made several years ago.

The painting we fondly refer to as “The Bogdani” was originally purchased by George Booth for Kingswood School for Girls, where it hung in the Domestic Science Dining Room. Purportedly painted by noted Hungarian Jakob Bogdani (1658-1724), the still life was found in a storage room badly in need of cleaning and restoration.

The painting was conserved by Ken Katz of Conservation & Museum Services in Detroit. During the several months of conservation, we were able to visit the studio in order to see the work in process, and the results were amazing.

during

During conservation.

As I looked closely at the work, my heart almost stopped beating. Bogdani’s signature was gone, and in its place was another name! My first thought was how hard I had lobbied to get the painting conserved and now it was a forgery!  However, after doing additional research, I discovered that the artist, Tobias Stranover (1684-1731) was actually Bogdani’s son-in-law and former student. Phew! Although this meant the still life was painted around 1810 instead of 1790, at least we still had an original painted by an artist who, with his father-in-law, provided the finest exotic bird and animal paintings in England. The painting currently hangs in the reading room of Cranbrook Archives.

Before conservation.

Before conservation.

after

After conservation, details in the painting can be seen can be seen more clearly, and the brilliance of the colors pop.

 

Leslie S. Edwards, Head 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

 

Photo Friday: Spot the Schust

Kingswood graduation, class of 1934.  Cranbrook Archives.

Kingswood graduation, class of 1934. Cranbrook Archives.

Graduating from Kingswood required a very different sort of dress code in 1934.  Glamorous to modern eyes, these matching outfits were probably just as irritating to the senior girls as polyester caps and gowns are for Cranbrook seniors today.   Bonus: somewhere in this photo is a young Florence Schust.  Schust became better known as Florence Knoll after her marriage to Hans Knoll, and it was through her husband’s furniture company that she revolutionized modern interiors and furnishings.  Can you spot her?  The Center for Collections and Research staff votes for the serious-faced young woman in the front row, four in from the left.

Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: