For many Americans, Labor Day’s most popular meaning is a “last hurrah to summer,” but its national significance is much greater than that. In 1894, Grover Cleveland designated the first Monday in September as a national holiday paying tribute to the contributions and achievements of the working force in America. The Italian laborers pictured here arrived at Cranbrook in 1905. Hired by George Booth, men with the last names of Angelosanto, DiPonio, Roselli, Soave, and Vettraino built roads and stone walls, dug ponds, contoured the land, planted, and cared for the property. In 1955 the Cranbrook Foundation Board of Trustees dedicated a plaza north of the Brookside School in appreciation of groundskeeper Michael Vettraino’s 50 years of service to the Cranbrook community. In his speech at the “Piazza Vettraino” dedication, Henry S. Booth said, “We acknowledge a debt to his native Italy, his affection for the world of growing things, his quest for beauty, his tireless hands and feet, and the part he has played as one of the many founders of Cranbrook today.”
Click here to listen to a clip from our oral history collection of Dominick Vettraino speaking about the work the Italians did on the grounds of Cranbrook.
– Gina Tecos, Archivist