Cranbrook’s largest installation of Pewabic Pottery tile is at Kingswood School, boasting several fireplaces, and all of the dormitory bathrooms (forty-nine total), and most notably the infamous Green Lobby. Pewabic was not, nor was it ever intended to be a commercial manufacturer. And although the pottery was incredibly prolific, it was envisioned as an Arts & Crafts pottery, where each piece of tile was hand-molded.
As a result of its high quality craftsmanship, Pewabic had issues producing the amount of tile needed in the timeframe for the installation and completion of Kingswood School. The contractors responsible for installing the tile were forced to travel to Detroit twenty-six times for small batches of tile; in other words, as the pottery produced the tile batch by batch, the contractor would pick them up in an effort to maintain their scheduled completion date! Unfortunately this caused financial issues between Pewabic and the contractor due to the delayed production and inevitable delayed installation, not to mention the extra time and travel needed to obtain the batches which hindered the completion of the building.
Despite these issues, the Green Lobby remains today as one of the gems of Cranbrook’s campus and is a favorite of students, faculty, and visitors alike. In 1931, the lobby featured a Pewabic fireplace, wainscoting, and flooring, as well as the staircase and railing to the second floor. However, when the lobby was restored in 1997, new floor tiles needed to be installed. Unfortunately, the floor tiles we see today are reproduction, not Pewabic though the original fireplace, wainscoting, and stairwell remain.
– Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research