This photo was taken sometime in August or September 1946 during Florence and Hans Knolls’ honeymoon to Sweden. The newlyweds, who met in New York where Florence was an architect and Hans ran his eponymous furniture company, traveled throughout Sweden on a “working honeymoon.”
The Knolls were there to make arrangements and agreements with Nordiska Kompaniet (NK, or The Nordic Company), a large Stockholm-based department store, and other companies to import Swedish furniture and textiles into the United States.
Florence “Shu” Knoll, née Schust, (1917-2019) is, of course, one of Cranbrook’s most distinguished alumna (Kingswood School Cranbrook 1934, Cranbrook Academy of Art student 1934-1937, 1939), and Hans Knoll (1914-1955) was the son of a German furniture maker associated with the Bauhaus. While we couldn’t find much information on the Swedes the Knolls are pictured with here, Elias Svedberg (1913-1987), on the far right, was an architect and designer with a long career at NK, starting in the mid-1940s. His midcentury modern Swedish furniture certainly would have appealed to the fashionable and modern Knolls!
This week at the Center, we’ve had Knoll (the company) on our mind since Monday’s important announcement of the merger of Knoll, Inc. and Herman Miller, Inc. into one company; we’ve also had Sweden on our mind as we gear up for our grand Swedish-themed fundraiser coming up on May 22, 2021: A Global House Party at Cranbrook and Millesgården. Of course, there’s a photo in Cranbrook Archives for every occasion!
—Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar, and Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
PS: Don’t forget to purchase your tickets to House Party today so you don’t miss out on our special Carl Milles film premiere!
One of my favorite items in the collections of Cranbrook Archives is George Booth’s hand drawn map of Cranbrook, which he created over a 24-year period between 1904 and 1928. It is the earliest topographical record of Cranbrook and visually documents his ideas and plans for developing the landscape. In 1951, George’s son, Henry, created annotations to accompany the map, which are useful both in deciphering the map and identifying locations. Henry’s notes on what was envisioned and what was implemented during those early years, are a good starting point from which to venture into the manuscript collections for verification.
As Cranbrook’s landscape evolved from a family estate into a center for art and education, the means of recording and viewing the topography was assisted by developments in aerial photography, known as photogrammetry. Talbert Abrams, a native of Michigan, is regarded as a key contributor to this field of photography, as he founded the Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation in 1923. The earliest aerial photograph of Cranbrook I could locate is from circa 1918.
In the Cranbrook Photograph Collection there are many aerial photographs taken by Abrams, as well as other photography firms, ranging from the 1920s through the 1990s. Since the purposes of aerial surveys are manifold, correspondence provides some insight into why they were commissioned and how they were specifically used, for example, as publicity and advertising. In 1932 Cranbrook’s public relations manager, Lee A. White, engaged Cranbrook School Headmaster William Stevens to select an image for the coming year’s brochure, and aerial views appear in all the early Cranbrook brochures. Aerial surveys have also been used to assess and understand the landscape prior to making a change to it. This was the case in 1961, when a topographic map and aerial photography were requested for the Off-Street Parking Study.
Correspondence between Arthur Wittliff, Secretary for the Cranbrook Foundation Board of Trustees, and Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation, provides intriguing details about the scale of the photography and the material base of the prints. The images below are from a December 6, 1961 set of 12 double weight velvet prints of aerials covering 1 square mile at a scale of 1 inch per 600 feet.
ASP-5 (above) shows the intersection of Cranbrook Road and Lone Pine Road, and includes Kingswood School and Lake, the Institute of Science, Cranbrook House, Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, and the Academy of Art and Academy Way. ASP-10 (below) shows another view of Cranbrook and its environs, encompassing the Institute of Science, Academy of Art, and Cranbrook School.
When looking across the topographical history of Cranbrook from George’s map through aerial photographs, it is always fascinating to discern the changing landscape alongside the features that are unchanging. And, for me, the great inspiration of George’s map is that, although each individual project necessitated getting into the weeds and meticulous details, his ideas were always guided by situating them within a bigger picture.
—Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
With the Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us, it is time to begin planning and preparing one of the essential parts of any celebration: food. It seems timely, then, to highlight Flora Leslie, Brookside’s long-serving dietician and food director. I would like to introduce her to you in her own voice, recalling a memory of some precarious pumpkin pies:
Hearing this story in Flora’s voice brings the memory to life in a different way than simply reading it in written form. Cranbrook Archives’ Oral History Collection holds recordings of many voices that add dynamism and richness to their stories. Flora Leslie’s interview describes her life at Cranbrook and her experience of its people and places in the mid-twentieth century.
Born Flora MacFarlane in Alexandria, Scotland, in 1906, she made her way to the United States alone in December 1930. Journeying by ship on a very stormy sea, the passengers were required to stay below deck where they got to know each other more than they would have had they been able to wander on deck. Having worked in a photographer’s office in Scotland, Flora initially sought the same occupation in America.
But a fellow passenger Flora met aboard the ship told her that if she had no luck finding work, to contact her for employment. It is thus that Flora began to work for the Ward family in Pontiac, a family whose children were students at Cranbrook.
In 1932, Flora started working at Cranbrook, initially at Kingswood School. Flora married George Leslie in 1934, a landscaper and gardener, and later a superintendent of buildings at Cranbrook.
After several invitations from Jessie Winter, Headmistress of Brookside School, Flora became the dietician and food director at Brookside School, a position she held from 1934-1975. The position came with an apartment, and though at first Flora preferred to stay at Kingswood, which she describes as “light and bright and lovely,” Winter asked Flora and George back to Brookside one further time and had arranged the apartment beautifully. Most importantly, there was a brand-new Frigidaire refrigerator, a novelty in those days. As Flora recalled, seeing this small luxury she told the headmistress, “We’ll come!” The apartment was in the part of Brookside known as the ‘Ram’s House’ and had previously been occupied by Jessie Winter and by J. Robert F. Swanson.
During the war years, when food was in short supply, George and Flora Leslie kept Brookside stocked with vegetables—he grew them and she canned them.
After feeding generations of students, Flora published many of her favorite and original recipes in the Brookside cookbook, Favorite Recipes, which are still enjoyed by alumni far and wide. Perhaps you might like to try one of Flora’s original recipes this Thanksgiving, or a dessert recipe from one of the faculty families?
—Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
When asked, late in life, about the furniture he designed for Kingswood School for Girls, Eero Saarinen referred to himself as “a child of my period.” Two chairs in particular show how the young, precocious designer was able to work in both traditional and modern modes. As designers in the 1920s and 1930s debated the merits of traditional and modern design, Eero worked with both.
He was just 18 years old when he began sketching designs for Kingswood in 1929. Later that year, he departed for Paris to study sculpture for eight months. These two Kingswood chairs show an understanding of two major European designs trends of the era: the evolutionary Art Deco, with its roots in neoclassical design, and the revolutionary Modern movement, emerging most forcefully out of the German Bauhaus.
First, the Kingswood Dining Hall chairs. These birch wood chairs with painted coral-colored elements and linen damask upholstery are delicate adaptations of the ancient Greek klismos chair. The klismos form, which features curving splayed legs and a concave crest rail, became popular in late-18th-century Europe and America as part of the Greek Revival and the neoclassical style. The form again became a favorite among designers in the 1920s, when its clean lines and soft curves were used throughout Art Deco interiors. Kilsmos chairs were especially fashionable in Scandinavian modern design, with architects and designers like Aino and Alvar Aalto, Gunnar Asplund, Erik Bryggman, and Carl Malmsten producing versions of the chair. In fact, Carl Milles had a set of Malmsten-designed klismos chairs in his Cranbrook dining room. Eero Saarinen’s klismos chairs for Kingswood fit perfectly within the clean lines, rich materials, and Swedish Grace-styling of the light-filled dining hall.
Second, a chair that eschews historic forms for the avant-garde: the chrome plated, tubular steel Kingswood Auditorium armchair. Eero Saarinen’s cantilevered design recalls the furniture coming out of Germany in the 1920s, particularly the work of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus. Breuer was a twenty-three-year-old student at the revolutionary German design school when, inspired by bicycle handlebars, he ordered tubular steel from the bicycle manufacturer Adler and built the world’s first tubular steel chair in 1925. Architect and president of the Bauhaus Walter Gropius was so taken with the initial tubular steel chair he invited Breuer to design most of the furnishings for the school’s new modern buildings in Dessau.
One was from Detroit; one was from Pittsburgh. One attended Kingswood School; the other attended the Academy of Art. One was a writer and women’s rights activist; the other was a sculptor, photographer, and social worker. Both were named Harriet Cooper. Both were on Cranbrook’s campus in 1940.
This was the unusual story I uncovered working recently with the Archives’ digital collections. While tagging images with the names of Cranbrook’s staff photographers, who were responsible for the majority of photographs taken at Cranbrook between the years 1931-1970, I came across the name Harriet Cooper. As one of only two female photographers, I attempted to find out more, and in the process discovered a second Harriet Cooper who was also at Cranbrook around the same time.
What were the odds? And more importantly, which was my Harriet? I had to find out, not only for the sake of photographic description, but to satisfy intellectual curiosity about the lives of two seemingly individual Cranbrook women, who shared the same name and once lived in close proximity (temporal and geographic) to each other.
Harriet Cooper Alpern was born in 1923. A Detroit native, she grew up on Chicago Boulevard in the Boston-Edison District. Attending Kingswood School (her twin brother attended Cranbrook School), she was active in theater and served as a reporter for The Clarion, graduating in 1940. According to the yearbook, Woodwinds, she was the senior voted for having the perfect speaking voice and known for splitting sides with her “unconscious humor.” After Kingswood, Harriet attended the University of Michigan, where her future husband E. Bryce Alpern also attended.
Harriet Elizabeth (Betty) Cooper Lundquist was born in Valencia, Pennsylvania in 1916. She grew up in Pittsburgh, daughter of social workers and directors of Kingsley House, a settlement house. Betty attended both Antioch College and Yale University School of Fine Arts before coming to Cranbrook Academy of Art to study sculpture under Carl Milles from 1940 to 1942. While here, she also took classes in metalcraft, modeling, and design.
And, she also took a job with Cranbrook Foundation as a photographer!
Although unknown whether she’d had any previous experience, Betty kept the Photography Department afloat on her own for several weeks during February and March 1942, and then stayed on for another seven months as assistant photographer. After graduation, Betty continued to work as a photographer for the Farm Security Administrationin Washington, D.C., where she met and married Oliver Lundquist.
While raising three children during the 1950s and 1960s, Betty was active in civil rights causes, including being a founding member of Women Strike for Peacein 1961. In the early 1970s, she went back to school and earned a graduate degree in social work, practicing her parents’ profession for the next thirty years until retirement.
It just goes to show that even while performing routine (but necessary!) archival tasks, fascinating stories reveal themselves, which provide new depth and understanding of Cranbrook’s people.
– Deborah Rice, Head Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
In the earliest days of Cranbrook, Fourth of July picnics were held in the shade of a big oak tree on the site of the present Japanese Garden near Kingswood School. In his history, Henry Wood Booth reports that in 1910, George decided a well was needed so that drinking water would not need to be carried down from the house. After much digging, there was no water, and the new well remained dry. The family would need to come back to the project another day.
Later the same evening, Cranbrook Road was flooded with mud and water. The well, having burst through the last layer of mud, was shooting eight feet into the air! A fountain was placed there a few months later and it flowed for fifty or more years until the screen was clogged. In 1963, a new well was drilled nearby.
The family didn’t always celebrate the Fourth so close to home. Here’s a parade planned by Henry Scripps Booth in 1935 while vacationing on Cuttyhunk Island, south of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on Buzzard’s Bay. Daughter Cynthia Booth is in the carriage pushed by Henry, and sons Stephen and David are in the parade.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
—Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research
In the past, we have discussed how we cover our stone sculptures on campus to protect them in the winter. But what about the many bronze sculptures? Europe and the Bull? Persephone? The Centaurs?
These pieces are more robust and able to withstand what winter throws at them, but they still need some love each year.
Each spring since 1987, the Community has brought in Venus Bronze Works to recondition the bronzes across the campus. Venus Bronze Works is a member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, which means all the cleaning they do is in accordance with AIC’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.
All sculptures are inspected and cleaned by dusting them off with compressed air or wet down and washed with a mild detergent, sponges, soft bristle brushes, and fine cotton pads.
When the works are dried, one or two thin coats of wax are applied and the sculptures are buffed. This wax can be applied directly from the container or applied to a hot surface (by heating the sculpture with a propane-fed torch).
This wax acts as a barrier to the air and humidity on the bronze surface and prevents damaging oxidization or corrosion from developing. When deciding how each individual work is cleaned, we look back to the artist’s intent for each sculpture (was it meant to be patinated green? dark bronze? polished? gilded?) and treat it accordingly.
In the Architectural Forum of January 1932, an advertisement announced that 160,000 pounds of 16-ounce Anaconda Copper had been used for the newly opened Kingswood School Cranbrook. There are copper gutters, cornices, louvers, moldings, and chimney covers, but most impressive is the 90,000 square foot batten seam copper roof.
There was just one problem with the new copper roof: it was installed with rolls of bright, new-penny-orange, sheet copper. Eliel Saarinen wanted a green roof, and I think he wanted it quickly.
Yes, he could have waited for the shiny new copper to patinate naturally from rain, humidity, and time. But who has the patience for natural aging when you have an architectural tour de force to complete? Instead, Saarinen turned to chemistry. Using a historic technique common in Europe, the contractor, A. C. Wermuth, directed his workmen to collect their urine in small jars and transfer it to barrels on site. These barrels were then hoisted to the ridge line of the roof, where the pungent catalyst was poured down the copper slope and then spread evenly with brooms.
Science did the rest, and Saarinen got his verdigris color which the Architectural Forum described as a “neutralized complement” to the warm tan brick and buff Mankato stone walls which “harmonized admirably with the heavy foliage of the location.”
The story of more than just rain tinkling on the roof is recorded in Archives as told to former archivist Mark Coir by Dominick Vettraino, who grew up at Cranbrook and served as our landscaper, fireman, superintendent, and jack-of-all-trades. I was asked about the story of peeing-on-the-roof this week by an Upper School chemistry teacher, who’d heard the rumor and is now using it in her lessons for students stuck at home. You, too, can run the experiment: you just need to have a glass, a penny, and be hydrated!
Just like rust develops on iron, patina develops on copper when left exposed to the elements. The copper sulfate on the surface reacts to oxygen in the environment. Unlike rust, the patina actually protects and preserves the copper. However, copper doesn’t turn green quickly: it can take twenty to thirty years for copper to become green! Uric acid can significantly speed up the process. The fact that the Kingswood roof is quite green in early color photos does reinforce the idea that they used a catalyst to age the roof.
The entire copper roof was recycled and replaced in two phases, from 1998 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2007. In the replacement, the copper patination was not accelerated. The fact that the replacement roof is still not green, seventeen to thirteen years on, is to be expected. The roof quickly changed from bright orange to dull brown, and then slowly toward the purplish black you see today. However, I am noticing this spring that when you look at the section of 2002 roof at an acute angle, it’s distinctly turning green at the seams!
The current color of the roof disappoints many graduates, but in time, it will return to the beautiful green color Saarinen and Wermuth achieved through their very affordable, if not very polite, method. And if you were at Kingswood between 1988 and the new roof replacement: you weren’t seeing a green patina, but a mint-green urethane coating sprayed on the entire roof to (unsuccessfully) slow the leaks!
—Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate
PS: Between the joined “Studio #3” and “Dorm # 2” at the Academy, built in 1932 and 1936 respectively, there is a visible difference between the color of the two copper roofs where the patination has never matched. This can be attributed to different batches of copper. In the new Kingswood roof, every delivery of copper sheeting and copper solder delivered to the site was tested for quality and composition: we wouldn’t want the roof to change color irregularly.
Metro Detroiters, out-of-town visitors, and architectural aficionados worldwide have long admired the Penobscot Building in Detroit’s Financial District. Like its close neighbor, the Guardian Building, and the Fisher Building further north in Midtown, it is one of the city’s finest examples of art deco architecture and one of the iconic structures that still make up Detroit’s skyline today. Designed by Wirt C. Rowland of Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls, when its 47 stories were built in 1928, it was the tallest building in the city and the fourth tallest in the nation.
The Penobscot, on the National Register of Historic Places, is perhaps best known architecturally for its tiered upper seventeen floors and the exterior ornament by sculptor Corrado Parducci, whose work can be seen on many other Detroit buildings. It’s also known to locals for the red-lit globe at the top (originally designed as an aviation beacon), the legendary Caucus Club (Barbara Streisand reportedly launched her singing career here), or the famed roof observation deck which offered an excellent panorama of the city.
But, what about the interior of the Penobscot? Well it just so happens there’s a Cranbrook connection!
The Guardian Detroit Group was the first tenant of the two-story bank hall at 635 Griswold St. before they had their own skyscraper commissioned just a block away. A later occupant, Detroit City Bank, opened in the same space in February 1949. When they did, adorning one wall was a mural painted by Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate and Head of Kingswood School Art Department (1940-1956), Clifford B. West. Known as the “Mural of Michigan” the twenty-six-foot painting depicts scenes representing state commerce and industry. West, who studied under Zoltan Sepeshy, and with fellow muralist David Fredenthal, had already completed a bank mural in Alamosa, Colorado, as well as Detroit-area murals in the Rackham Building, Stockholm Restaurant, and Fox & HoundsRestaurant.
Clifford and Joy Griffin West work on the mural. Cranbrook Archives.
The mural’s upper left quadrant. Cranbrook Archives.
Following a meticulous process that involved a series of sketches at different scales, cartoons plotted to a numbered grid and traced on the wall, and painting in two steps (large blocks of color followed by detail work), the scenes were applied in casein tempera on canvas cemented to the wall. Joining in this process was West’s wife and fellow artist, Joy Griffin West, and several academy students. Fortuitously, each stage of work was captured in a series of photographs by Cranbrook photographer, Harvey Croze.
Upon completion of the mural, West mounted an exhibit at Cranbrook Art Museum titled, Progress of a Mural in April 1949, detailing his process for the Penobscot mural, and featuring many of the preliminary sketches and cartoons.
It’s largely unknown whether the Penobscot mural exists today, since a drop ceiling was installed many years ago, completely obscuring West’s creation.
Marthe Julia LeLoupp, born October 10, 1898, in Plogoff, Finistere, France, was an original faculty member of Kingswood School, where she taught French from 1930-1956. Having completed the Diplȏme de fin d’études at the Lysée Brizeaux, Quimper, Finistere, France in 1917, LeLoupp then completed her BA at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1920. She later completed graduate work at the University of Chicago (1929-1931) where she worked on an MA Thesis: Influence du Breton sur le français régional en Bretagne. With teaching experience in schools and colleges in Minnesota, South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, and Indiana, LeLoupp arrived at Cranbrook in 1930.
Marthe LeLoupp, 19 Feb 1952. Photographer, Harvey Croze. Cranbrook Archives.
Correspondence with LeLoupp in the Kingswood School Records is limited but suggests that she would return to France each summer. A letter from LeLoupp, written in Paris on September 17, 1939, tells how she left America in June with ticket safely tucked in her purse for a return September 6th on the Normandie. But, the declaration of war had made this impossible and her ticket had been passed, initially to the DeGrasse to sail on the 13th and then to the Shawnee, due to depart Bordeaux on the 22nd. The Shawnee, she explains, had been, “sent to the rescue of a few hundred thousand American citizens, who are anxiously waiting for transportation westward.” On arriving to Bordeaux on September 22, 1939, Le Loupp writes that they were told, to their great dismay, that the Shawnee would not sail until the 26th. While LeLoupp’s letters were on their way to Cranbrook, Ms. Augur [Kingswood School Headmistress, 1934-1950] was searching for LeLoupp, first sending a telegram and then consulting the American Consul. LeLoupp’s mother returns Ms. Augur’s telegram with a letter explaining her daughter’s situation. Discovering this story recently, I wondered at the extraordinary resonance with current concerns for travelers, and for those unable to complete their journeys.
Telegram, Ms. Augur to Mlle. LeLoupp, September 23, 1939. Cranbrook Archives.
Letter, Mdm LeLoupp to Ms. Augur, September 25, 1939. Cranbrook Archives.
Letter (page 2), Mdm LeLoupp to Ms. Augur, September 25, 1939. Cranbrook Archives.
Despite the harrowing circumstances, LeLoupp did eventually make it across the Atlantic. She continued to teach French at Kingswood School until July 1956, when she writes from Bénodet in France to request to be released from her 1956-57 contract due to poor health, ending the letter, “I find it impossible to express my regret in words.” Not much else is known about LeLoupp’s time at Cranbrook, except that she lived for twelve of her years at Cranbrook in the apartments above Kingswood School, which were converted in 1945 from the ballroom known as Heaven. In the KBC [Kingswood Brookside Cranbrook] Quarterly of May 1973, LeLoupp was remembered thus,
“a “beautiful person” with a “super smile”. She was “sweet and kind” and always beautifully dressed in classic tweeds. Peering over her bi-focals at her students and reciting in her strong French accent the terrible weekly dictes that no one could understand, she was one of those who inspired her girls to excellence or accomplishment in French that is still one of Kingswood’s greatest assets”.