In today’s post, I want to share moments from their journey through France, which is so beautifully documented by Henry’s letters and photographs, and by both of their sketches.
Arriving in France in March 1923, Harry and Bob journeyed through Nice to Cannes, then through Lyon to the city of Bourges. Henry describes the scenery en route:
“…mountains on the right and the “Cote d’Azure” on the other, flowers overhanging balustraded walls, old olives and tall but easily climbed palms, rocks and breaking waves, and then always the bluest of skies and sea to match, and dazzling sunlight–quite warm and ‘drowsy’.“
At Bourges, they headed for the Cathedral, which they visited several times: at night by the light of gas lamps; in the afternoon sunlight; at dusk with a handful of worshippers on their knees; and then later that evening filled with the faithful.
“It was an inspiring sight—the nave packed, and both the inner and outer aisles (for there are two) on the north side filled also, and not a few on the other side of the church. The light was dim all during the sermon, and when that was over, a quantity of candles were lighted almost instantaneously about the “Host,” and all the electric candles down the nave came on, so that suddenly this great cathedral was changed from a imaginative forrest in the night, to a great cathedral church ablaze with the lights associated with a feast.
“But I thought more of other things than of the architecture that night. The preacher talked too fast for me to understand his French, but I knew what he should have been saying even if he wasn’t…, I looked at the great number of long black vails [sic] everywhere, noticed the lack of men of middle age, and saw many young fellows who are now “heads” of their father’s family standing by their veiled mother’s side.”
They stopped in Tours before taking in the Chateaux of the Loire: from Loche to Langais, Ussé, Villandry and Azey.
George G. Booth didn’t just commission renowned architects in building Cranbrook, he also engaged well-respected landscape designers. Architecture and nature were equally considered. Booth’s own 1904 topographical map demonstrates his grandiose vision for reshaping what was then farmland. It is not surprising, therefore, that Cranbrook has a connection to the American “father of landscape architecture,” Frederick Law Olmsted.
Leading up to and following the Center’s most recent Bauder lecture, Experiencing Olmsted: The Enduring Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted’s North American Landscapes, Olmsted-related materials in the Archives were revisited and new associations were made.
It was Frederick Law Olmsted’s successor firm, the Olmsted Brothers, led by his sons, that worked on the landscape of Christ Church Cranbrook from 1926-1928. Simultaneous to the construction of the church by the architecture firm Bertram G. Goodhue Associates, the Olmsteds created plans for the surrounding land between Lone Pine, Cranbrook, and Church Roads.
A few pieces of correspondence in the George Gough Booth Papers shed light on the close relationship between Booth, the chief architectOscar H. Murray, and the Olmsted Brothers. But there are many more letters from Job 7754 (aka Christ Church Cranbrook) in the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers and Olmsted Associates Records held by the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., all of which can be read online.
The Archives also holds two reproductions of Olmsted Brothers plans: the second and the tenth drawing revisions submitted in 1927 and 1928, respectively. In these, plants are clearly numbered, but the Archives does not hold the accompanying keys. At the suggestion of Bauder lecturer, Charles Birnbaum, President, CEO, and Founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C., I reached out to the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts. They graciously shared scanned copies of both planting plans, for our reference.
We now know, for example, that the large evergreens that George Booth mentions in a letter to Oscar Murray likely refer to the Austrian Pine (10 and 82), Douglas Fir (83), and White Pine (90) enumerated in a November 4, 1927 plant list for Plan No. 2. And, we can see where on the blueprint those trees were proposed to be planted!
Many more discoveries are sure to come, now that we have a more complete picture of the original landscape design for Christ Church Cranbrook. I know that next time I drive or walk by the church, I will be taking a closer look at the vegetation.
—Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Editor’s note: To view the five drawings in the Olmsted Archives at Brookline, including originals of the Cranbrook copies, and eight scrapbook pages that include Goodhue Associates renderings, visit their Flickr albums.
We recently reorganized materials in the Archives Reading Room to provide easier access to Cranbrook Publications and encourage greater use of these informative resources. The first series available for ready reference are the Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS) Bulletins, which are arranged in the full series of 64 issues. The Bulletins are periodically published works of original scientific research, which was part of the mission of the early Institute.
Initially established in 1930, the Institute’s stated purpose was, “to add to and strengthen the educational and cultural facilities within the State of Michigan.” It was established as a separate Cranbrook institution on February 10, 1932. An aim set for the staff was not only to supplement the facilities of the several Cranbrook Schools, but to engage in original research and publication, “to add to the sum total of human knowledge.” The CIS originally comprised nine divisions of scientific fields and administration: Astronomy, Geology, Botany, Entomology, Aquatic Biology, Mammology, Anthropology, Education, and Preparation, and the Bulletins reflect these fields of inquiry.
The Bulletins range in size, from pamphlets to hard cover books, and are published ad hoc according to the completion of research projects. The incredible diversity and particularity of topics make it exceedingly difficult to select which to highlight for your interest. Thus, I have tried to pick across the divisions of research to deliver to you an array of examples, not only works of scientific distinction but of artistic beauty and thoughtfulness in their presentation.
This series of periodicals, published between 1931 and 1999, focus predominantly on Michigan with some studies further afield. They are of unequivocal research value to students and scientists with an interest in the natural world, including its flora and fauna, lakes and fish, archaeological history, and geological development, as well as human geography and cultural history.
The CIS Bulletins are available for research in our public Reading Room. If you are curious to learn more and to explore their contributions to scientific knowledge, come and see! All are welcome to explore and study our collections by appointment Monday to Friday, 9am to 4 pm.
–Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
As the Center team prepares for our upcoming fundraiser on May 20, 2023, A House Party at Two Cranbrooks, we have been peeking into closets and cabinets in search of what the Booth family might have worn to a garden gala at Cranbrook House, in the early decades of the Cranbrook estate, about 1908 to 1918.
The early years of Cranbrook House, from dedication of the main building in 1908 through the addition of the Library in 1918 and Oak Room in 1919, spanned major changes in society. Fashion changed significantly during this period, moving from the tightly corseted looks of the Edwardian era to the loose, drop-waisted garments that were popular by the time of Florence Booth’s debut party at Cranbrook in 1922.
George Booth and his family were deeply inspired by the British Arts and Crafts movement and collected textiles and furnishings from important figures like designer and expert embroiderer May Morris.
Arts and Crafts fashions drew on the same visual language, with rich colors and textures embellished with flowers, foliage, and patterns drawn from the natural world. The so-called Aesthetic Dress of the late nineteenth century combined artistic appeal with efforts to reform social attitudes about clothing. The flowing silhouettes of tea gowns were a spectacle for the display of luxurious silks, but also allowed for a greater range of movement without the need for restrictive undergarments.
Aesthetic Dress may have inspired the costuming for theatrical events staged by members of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. Images of the 1910 Masque of Arcadia show soft, flowing gowns and floral crowns, while costumes for the 1916 Cranbrook Masque were designed by Helen Plumb and Katherine and Alexandrine McEwen, with fine fabrics appropriate to the newly opened Greek Theater.
Cranbrook Archives is pleased to announce the preservation and digitization of eight Institute of Science early education films. Made possible through generous funding by the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), these silent films were sent to a professional film lab where they were inspected and expertly cleaned, repaired, copied onto archival safe film stock, and scanned. Previously inaccessible to users due to their fragility, a combined ninety-four minutes (2,450 feet) of footage can now be viewed digitally.
In a post exactly one year ago, I first mentioned the Institute’s early forays into the burgeoning educational film market of the 1930s. Using 16mm film technology (the amateur version of Hollywood motion picture film), Institute staff documented scientific field research, captured the work of exhibition preparators, and recorded educational programs. Many of these films were shown regularly to museum patrons and were often accompanied by lectures.
With the exception of one 1955 film, the NFPF grant films were all created between 1935 and 1938. Six of the films collectively display a range of astronomical, botanical, zoological, ornithological, and marine ecological research efforts. In addition to Emergence of the Periodical Cicada at Cranbrook, finished titles include Solar Prominences, featuring telescopic footage of solar flares, and Birds in Summer, which tells the story of newly born birds. Untitled films show the behavior of adult birds, deer, and coral reef life.
While these snapshots in time may no longer be useful as originally intended – to educate the public on their present natural world – they do have the potential to inform current and future research on conservation or climate change. For example, a film on coral reef life, with its unique early underwater footage, offers the opportunity for comparing current conditions with those documented by Institute scientists three generations ago.
The remaining two films demonstrate curatorial and membership activities. In one, staff are seen in the Institute library; painting scenes for exhibit backdrops and gathering botanical specimens in a forested setting; and making plaster molds of specimens in an Institute workroom. In another, Institute Junior Members and staff take a field trip to a local quarry to collect rocks and minerals.
The Institute of Science film project marks the beginning of a concerted effort to digitize the Archives’ audiovisual collections. Due to their age, complex chemical/mechanical makeup, and obsolescent playback equipment (who still owns a VCR?), audio and video recordings capturing the sights and sounds of Cranbrook’s past are some of our most at-risk materials. I hope to share more stories of success in the near future!
—Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
When I was asked to gather archival materials related to Cranbrook in Kent, England, a short series of correspondence in the Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers particularly caught my notice. Written to Henry Scripps Booth, the letters discuss a stone from St. Dunstan’s Church in Cranbrook, Kent, and its overseas delivery to Christ Church Cranbrook. I became quite curious about it.
One handwritten letter in the correspondence was rather difficult to decipher, but once I got the pattern of it, it helped me begin to comprehend the story.
In July 1930, St. Dunstan’s Vicar, Rev. Swingler, acknowledged a request from Booth for a fragment of the church which could be placed in the chapel of the same name at Christ Church Cranbrook.
It was July 1931 before Rev. Swingler wrote again to inform Booth that the stone was ready for dispatch. He explained that the Church Council had welcomed the idea and directed the Fabric Committee to select a stone, which they had, but that the Secretary had forgotten to inform Booth until then, a year later, and it was already on its way!
The forgetfulness of the Secretary and finding appropriate shipping arrangements for such an unusual commodity had caused quite a delay, to which Rev. Swingler writes,
“I am sorry that the matter has not been dealt with more speedily but old Cranbrook has hardly yet learned modern methods of business, as perhaps you know.”
He goes on to describe the provenance of the stone, at least as far as he could tell. A fifteenth century carved coign (an architectural term for a “projected corner”), it once formed part of the string course (a projected band of stone) which runs at the base of the battlements of the church nave. The course includes a series of grotesque heads, some of which were pierced for waterspouts. A grotesque, common in medieval church architecture, is a decoratively carved stone used to ward off evil spirits and to signify the sanctuary and safety of the church. On inspecting an historic photograph of the church, I could identify similar stones at the top of the drainpipes and around the tower battlements.
Rev. Swingler had first seen it laying in the churchyard and surmised that it had not been replaced during past repairs. He doesn’t mention why they selected that particular stone, but one could conjecture that it was because it was no longer part of the fabric of the church building and hence was available to be gifted to Christ Church. He notes that it is probably of Hartley stone, which was quarried in the Parish.
Henry Scripps Booth contributed great efforts to building relationships between the old and new Cranbrooks by establishing and maintaining connections between the two churches. The grotesque that arrived at Christ Church more than 90 years ago is an artifact that tells just one story of his efforts. From St. Dunstan’s of old Cranbrook, known as the “Cathedral of the Weald,” to St. Dunstan’s of Christ Church Cranbrook, the carved coign continues to herald sanctuary and give confidence to those who enter.
–Laura MacNewman Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Cranbrook Archives was saddened at the passing of design icon Ruth Adler Schnee last month. As proud custodians of the Edward and Ruth Adler Schnee Papers we know that her legacy lives on in the many documents, photographs, drawings, and textile samples available to researchers. With a long and varied career in textile design and interior design, there are a plethora of materials to inform and admire, adding nuance and context to her catalog of accomplishments seen in current textile production, museum collections worldwide, and public, commercial, and residential buildings throughout the Detroit area.
Her personal and professional story is inspiring in so many ways, not the least of which were the interior design projects completed for Schnee & Schnee Consultants, a company that Ruth owned with her husband Edward Schnee from 1977-1985. She designed, and he ran the business, much like their other design consulting partnerships, the earlier Adler-Schnee Associates, and the later Schnee and Schnee Inc.
One of their major commissions, and particularly well-documented in their papers, was the Jewish Community Center’s Edward and Freda Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza in West Bloomfield, a three-year project spanning 1982-1985. One does not automatically think of innovative design when considering assisted living facilities, so it is particularly a delight to view Ruth’s colorful palette at work in her project sketches and product choices, both of which evoke her affinity for vibrant textiles.
The Schnees’ thoughtful work in addressing the needs of the residents is evident in the detailed project records and numerous oversized room design presentation boards. In comments about the project Ruth stated, “every design decision became an important element in providing a warm and protective environment.” The residence quickly became a model for similar projects across the country as the modern idea of assisted living facilities, versus the institutional nursing home model, grew in popularity.
Immediately following their success with the Fleischman Residence, Schnee & Schnee consulted on a similar project just north of Cranbrook Educational Community, St. Elizabeth Briarbank. Collaborating with the architectural firm John Stevens Associates Inc. (Ruth was their Director of Interior Design from 1977-1979), Ruth designed the interiors for an addition to the Catholic assisted living community for women, drawing on her research and application at the Fleischman Residence. From the red and orange beauty parlor, featuring the same John Yellen chairs, to the softer wall murals in common rooms, to the light-hearted wallpaper in the communal kitchen, Ruth’s touch is irrefutable.
The Fleischman and Briarbank projects are just two of the eight senior residential complexes (four with architect John Stevens) that Ruth “transformed” with her sensitivity and playfulness, demonstrating yet another intriguing facet of Ruth Adler Schnee’s career.
—Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
Cranbrook Archives is pleased to announce that the Carl and Annetta Wonnberger Papers are open for research. The collection contains biographical materials documenting their early life and education, a large series of personal correspondence between Carl and Annetta during their courtship, materials relating to Carl’s tenure as teacher and administrator at Cranbrook School, their involvement in establishing and directing the Cranbrook Theater School, as well as Carl’s involvement in outside organizations.
Carl and Annetta Wonnberger were fixtures at Cranbrook for well over half a century, raising two daughters on campus (Jo Anne and Nancy, Kingswood ’48 and ’53 respectively) and making significant contributions to Cranbrook School (Carl even wrote their fight song!) and community theater arts. They both received Cranbrook’s highest honor, the Founders’ Award, and Annetta had a day (July 17) named after her by the City of Bloomfield Hills.
They arrived at Cranbrook in September 1929 when Carl took the position of English teacher at Cranbrook School. The following year, Carl became the Head of the English Department, a position which he held until 1967 when he retired from Cranbrook and became Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University.
Annetta helped Carl start Ergasterion (Cranbrook School’s drama club) in 1931. She created costumes, built and painted sets, applied make up, and played female roles in all boys’ productions. Annetta was also one of the founders, with Henry Scripps Booth and Brookside Schools Headmistress Jessie Winter, of St. Dunstan’s Theatre in 1932.
Together they founded Cranbrook Theatre School (CTS) in 1942 with the first season held in the Greek Theater. The mission of the school was to provide a full liberal education through theater training including voice and diction, phonetics and language, development and control of the body, literature, history, philosophy, design, and technical science. Carl and Annetta taught theatrical training so as to provide experience in teamwork, good sportsmanship, and dialog. They celebrated theatrical training as a wonderful developer of personality.
The bulk of the Wonnberger Papers relates to their involvement with Cranbrook Theatre School, comprising administrative materials as well as many scripts, announcements, and performance programs.
Theater performances, themselves, are well documented by audio-visual formats including photographs, slides, and motion picture film. This collection provides a rich study of a fascinating facet of Cranbrook’s performing arts legacy, and a theater program that is still going strong today.
–Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
I have mentioned in the blog before that I am working with Center Director Gregory Wittkopp and Center Curator Kevin Adkisson on reviewing all fourteen of our cultural properties collections (over 9,000 objects), reviewing the data already on file and adding as much additional information about each object as we can.
The most recent collection I have been working on is Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School – Cranbrook Campus (f.k.a. Cranbrook School for Boys). The current campus buildings, classrooms, and staff offices, all had the potential to contain cultural properties (historic objects). And many that we visited did!
When I researched the Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School – Kingswood Campus (f.k.a. Kingswood School for Girls), I was fortunate to have the “Kingswood School Cranbrook Inventory of Equipment and Supplies.” It recorded the purchases and payments made from 1930-1938 for the outfitting of the school. It proved invaluable in locating quantities and makers of objects.
There had to be an equivalent for Cranbrook Campus?! Unfortunately, not that I had yet seen.
I only had a 1952 Inventory which listed fixed items, like light fixtures; and “movable” furniture and fixtures, like chairs, tables, desks, artwork. This was a great resource, but it did not always give me the makers or artists. Undeterred, I started searching in Cranbrook Archives, the “little gem” at Cranbrook, to borrow a phrase from Frank Lloyd Wright.
In Box 43, Folder 11 of the Cranbrook Foundation Office Records were the “Building Costs for Cranbrook School from 1926-1946.” And then, I saw it. A small black book labeled “Cranbrook School Book.” Could it be what I was looking for?
Inside were listed payments made to the builder Wermuth & Son and to the W. J. Sloane Company for furniture. It listed the artists who painted, carved, and outfitted the school, as well as contractors who installed various materials in the buildings.
These entries were great, but what else would it lead to? The answer: the “Cranbrook Schools” series in the Cranbrook Architectural Office Records.
Many of the folders were labeled “Cranbrook School correspondence, Wermuth & Son” with dates. The “Cranbrook School Book” had given me an idea of what to look for. Who Wermuth and the Cranbrook Architectural office (and sometimes George G. Booth himself) were corresponding with was the key. Inside were letters from vendors of tiles, furniture, stained glass, stonework, mirrors, mattresses, windows, everything needed to build a well-appointed school.
Here are just a few examples:
Copies of blueprints for furniture made by W. J. Sloane Company’s “Company of Master Craftsmen,” many of which were selected for Cranbrook.
A letter from L.A. Sielaff & Co. indicating it was contracted to carve the wood ornaments on the Geza Maroti-designed doorcases outside the Library
Next up, Cranbrook Campus’ custom light fixtures! I can already hear Kevin’s words in my head . . .
. . . Cranbrook light fixtures are all around campus. There are multiple types of the light fixtures. These were designed by architect and former Head of the Architecture Department Dan Hoffman. He was the architect-in-residence who probably did more to revive the tradition at Cranbrook that was so such a passion project of George Booth and Eliel Saarinen . . .
– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
p.s. For more on Cranbrook Campus, check out these videos by Center Curator Kevin Adkisson:
Stepping into the Smith House on a grim and wintry day, one is instantly enveloped in warmth. The warm tones of brick and tidewater cypress walls, and the soft, textured furnishings help to create a cozy atmosphere, but the real effect is felt through radiant heat rising from the pigmented concrete floors.
Underfloor heating was a frequent feature of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses. Concerned with elegant and efficient use of space, these modest buildings for middle-income families utilized radiant heating set into the concrete slab flooring. Warm floors prevented heat transfer from bodies to cold buildings and allowed the air to be kept at a cooler temperature than conventional radiator-heated homes.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas about underfloor heating were adapted from the principles of the Korean heating system called ondol, literally ‘warm stone,’ that he encountered during his time in Japan. While working on the Imperial Hotel project, Wright was invited to visit the Tokyo residence of Baron Okura Kihachiro. After dinner in a freezing cold dining room, the party was invited for coffee in the Baron’s heated “Korean Room.” In his 1943 autobiography, Wright described the shift in temperature in rapturous terms:
The climate seemed to have changed. No, it wasn’t the coffee; it was Spring. We were soon warm and happy again – kneeling there on the floor, an indescribable warmth. No heating was visible nor was it felt directly as such. It was really a matter of not heating at all but an affair of climate.
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1943
Wright was instantly taken with this “indescribable warmth” and immediately specified electric heating in the Imperial Hotel bathrooms. On returning to the United States, he continued to explore the use of heating systems in both residential and commercial projects.
His first private home to incorporate underfloor heating was the Herbert Jacobs House, in Madison, Wisconsin, completed in 1937. The Jacobs House would become a model for Wright’s Usonian houses and an inspiration to architects and homeowners worldwide. By the time that Melvyn and Sara Smith began construction of Smith House in 1949, developers like William Levitt were popularizing the use of radiant heating in tract housing developments across the United States.
The Smiths employed engineer Clarence Toonder to help implement the heating plan designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s office. Blueprints show the copper tubing as it snakes through the L-shaped floor plan of Smith House, ensuring that every room would be warm and comfortable.