Photo Friday: Ciao Cranbrook!

Italian workers at Cranbrook

Italian laborers at Cranbrook, ca 1906/Cranbrook Archives

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

George Booth and Palermo: the Paschal Candelabrum

Christ Church Cranbrook Candelabra

Stone carvers at the Chiurazzi Foundry, 1929. Cranbrook Archives.

Even though Christ Church Cranbrook has not officially been a part of the Cranbrook Educational Community since 1973, our staff is often asked to give presentations or tours relevant to the church and the objects that George Booth purchased to adorn it. Gothic in architecture, and a showplace for the Arts and Crafts movement, Christ Church Cranbrook also features objects from the 12th century. One of these is a reproduction of the original Paschal Candelabrum located within the Cappella Palatina (1130-1140) in the Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans) in Palermo, Sicily.

It appears as if Booth first became aware of the medieval sculpture in Sicily through his son, Henry, who traveled on a European trip in 1922 with his close friend, Bob Swanson. Henry wrote several letters home to his father describing his visits to Monreale and Palermo, and the artistic and architectural wonders he saw there. Records in the Cranbrook Archives show that in 1929, George and Ellen Booth traveled to Italy where they made several purchases, including a faithful reproduction of the candelabrum. George and Ellen discussed where to place the candelabrum in the church and George wrote Henry: “Now as for use–I thought if at the chancel we could establish a custom of lighting the big candle for weddings or at Easter and Christmas and if in the Narthex when a baptism was to occur. There is plenty of time to think it over as I have yet to place the order and they estimate it will take one year to complete.” The candelabrum was installed in the Christ Church Cranbrook Narthex in March 1931.

All Roads Lead to Cranbrook: A Fellow Says Goodbye

I began writing this blog post weeks ago but had to set it aside—because I became too sentimental to continue, but also because I was pulled into a discussion about an issue around 19th century chairs, Eliel Saarinen, and Cranbrook House (the exact details escape me). This, to me, is the perfect encapsulation of what the last two years have been: a whirlwind of emotional investment, intellectual engagement, and a work pace that proceeds at a quick clip as projects emerge from questions as diverse as “is this sandbox at Brookside a historic one?” (the answer is, “no”) to “how did those Cranbrook School chairs get all the way out to California, and what do we do with them now?” (the answer is, “we don’t know” and “return them into circulation after ensuring their condition and documentation”).

As the first full-term, resident Collections Fellow at the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, I have worked with an amazing staff of individuals to field these questions and countless more (the less said about the discussion regarding spray-painted vandalism on the posterior of a sculpture on campus, the better). I have also had the chance to both figuratively and literally reach across the aisle to collaborate with the staff of Cranbrook Art Museum and Cranbrook Institute of Science, as well as the amazing volunteers at Cranbrook House. For two years I have watched the seasons turn from my desk in the lower level of the art museum. I have made a place for myself in CAM’s gleaming new Collections Wing as well as the less glamorous (but perhaps more curious and mysterious) storage spaces that fill attics and basements across Cranbrook’s sprawling campus. I have learned this storied site’s history, engaging with its past through three exhibitions and countless house tours, lectures, and public programming. And now, unfortunately, it is time for me to say goodbye.

Here I am hard at work in the Cranbrook House attic, cataloging and photographing historic costume. This job was always a surprise! May 2014.

Here I am hard at work in the Cranbrook House attic, cataloging and photographing historic costumes. This job is always a surprise! May 2014.

Continue reading

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: