Faculty Housing is for the Birds

While working in our digital database recently, I came across an image of something called Chanticleer Cottage. The unusual name and image piqued my interest.

Chanticleer Cottage, 1998

Chanticleer Cottage, 1998. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Chanticleer Cottage started out as the “Chicken House,” built in 1945 on the site of the old toboggan slide at Cranbrook School. It was also known as the “Biological Lab,” “Experimental Building,” and “Animal House.” The structure was built to house chickens that accompanied Holland Sperry, the new head of Cranbrook School’s science department. The cost of the 20 x 30 foot building was just under $10,000. Sperry used the chickens to study genetics, and students in the science department completed experiments and conducted research on animals. The most famous resident of the “Chicken House” was Esmerelda, a single-comb White Leghorn who celebrated her 12th birthday (100 in human years) with a cake and candles.

Early cottage occupant Esmerelda celebrates her birthday

Early cottage occupant Esmerelda celebrates her birthday with student Ethan Golden. Pontiac Daily Press

Sperry retired in 1957. In 1958 the building was remodeled into a three bedroom house, at a recommended cost of $25,000 and turned into faculty housing. It was given the more elegant name of Chanticleer Cottage. The building was demolished in 1998 to make way for the Natatorium.

Cheri Y. Gay, Archivist


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