Photo Friday: Tuning a Concert Grand

Hugh Gulledge patiently tunes the 1929 Steinway & Sons Model D Concert Grand in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. Photographer: Gretchen Sawatzki

Hugh Gulledge patiently tunes the piano in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. Photographer: Gretchen Sawatzki.

In 2013, the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary took action to restore the 1929 Steinway & Sons, Model D Concert Grand Piano currently housed in the West Wing Library of Cranbrook House. After traveling to the Steinway & Sons factory in New York, it underwent a nine-month restoration process which included a new sounding board, bridges, strings, and action components. The piano was returned this past June where it sat acclimating to the environment of the house after taking such an extensive trip and waiting to be played. This past Thursday, Hugh Gulledge, a registered piano technician put the finishing touches on the piano, tuning and voicing it for its official unveiling. On Thursday, November 20, 2014 the Concert Grand will make its public, post-restoration debut at the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary’s annual fund raising event Holiday Tables 2014

Gretchen Sawatzki, Associate Registrar

Photo Friday: The Fate of the North Gates

Arriving at  Cranbrook House you have probably noticed the large wrought iron entrance gates that welcome guests to the property along Lone Pine Road. A collaborative design by Cranbrook Founder, George Gough Booth (1864 – 1949) and Polish-American blacksmith, Samuel Yellin (1885 – 1940), this pair of gates were completed in 1917and are among the most cherished historic decorative elements at Cranbrook. But did you know that they are not the only gates that were a Booth-Yellin collaboration situated on the property?

North Gates

The North (Woods) Entrance Gates in Yellin’s studio, 1917. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Affectionately referred to as the North Gates, the gates seen in this photograph were also a collaborative design by Booth and Yellin. Forged by Yellin in his Philadelphia studio in 1917, the North Gates were installed as a part of a stone entrance wall at the old Cranbrook House entrance drive just north of Kingswood School on Cranbrook Road. When the drive was closed to re-route traffic to the house, the gates were ultimately removed and put into storage where they have remained – until now! Next week the North Gates will be leaving Cranbrook for a short journey to Cleveland for a full restoration. The six month project will include the fabrication of hand-wrought ironwork to replicate missing elements, chiseling to recreate bird faces and leaf veins, sandblasting, and the replication of a historic surface finish. Upon their return next spring the gates will be reinstalled at the new exit drive at Cranbrook House on Lone Pine Road just west of the South Entrance gates. So keep your eyes peeled for the triumphant return of the freshly restored gates!


The original site of the North Gates as it appears today on Cranbrook Road. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki


Gretchen Sawatzki, Associate Registrar


To check out some more gate related information click here and here!

A Registrar’s Perspective

Tawny Nelb Workshop

Framed Ralph Rapson drawing, The Ralph Rapson Collection, 1935-1954. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatski.

This past Monday I had the great fortune of taking part in an archival workshop lead by forty-year archives veteran Tawny Ryan Nelb of Nelb Archival Consulting, Inc. As a Registrar, I primarily work with three-dimensional objects (furniture, paintings, gates, etc.), so I was eager to learn that this workshop focused on architectural records, the sub-genres within that medium, and how to properly care for and store these records.

I reference architectural records quite frequently when I am trying to learn more about, or troubleshoot, a problem related to an object. In all honesty, I thought I knew the proper handling, usage, and storage of these records as this knowledge is vital to my job; but it was obvious that I really needed the refresher course in “Paper Management 101.”

Archives workshop at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Tawny Ryan Nelb (third from left). Photographer, Justine Tobiasz.

Tawny’s discussion covered all areas of architectural records including paper mediums, drawing types, and then some. I have to admit though that I cringed when the conversation moved towards the exhibition processes for architectural records! Often, we loan architectural sketches, floorplans, and section drawings to other institutions that require us to frame the documents using a hinge system. A hinge, simply put, is a tab that is glued to a document using a reversible wheat paste that is then adhered to an acid-free backer board. To my dismay, this approach was used historically on tissue and tracing type papers records in our collections, which are likely to tear and off-gas inside their expensive frames, creating a microclimate of havoc. In a moment of panic my hand shot up in the middle of the lecture and I uttered, “But we have documents framed in our collection like this! What should we do?”

Thank goodness for archival specialists, because Tawny truly eased my conscience. She, in very kind words simply replied, “It’s ok. We can remove the tissue and tracing paper from their frames, disrupting the microclimate, and use archival paper and matting to resolve the issue.” My response, “what about those hinges?” And, again she calmed my nerves, “Leave the hinges, and store the objects in flat files, so there is no need to use the frames. Then, if these documents go on exhibition again, they are already hinged and ready to go.” In one word: genius. That is what I experienced at this workshop, shear genius. In all of the workshops I have been a part of, I have never been so glad to have attended an archives workshop in all of my life.

Gretchen Sawatski, Associate Registrar

Worker Bees and Spider Webs: Preparing Saarinen House

Walking through Saarinen House during the historic house tour season (May 1st – October 31st) visitors expect to see a few things; perfection in architecture, intricacies in woven textiles, beautiful leaded glass, and ingeniously designed furnishings. What visitors miss during the off-season is the buzzing of many “worker bees” laboring over the house’s care. As the Associate Registrar for the Center for Collections and Research, however, I am commissioned with task of caring for the house and preparing it for the public tour season.

Exterior plaque, Saarinen House.  Considered part of the Cranbrook Art Museum, Saarinen House operates as a historic house open to tours from May to October.   The house is interpreted to the 1930s, when the Saarinen family first built and inhabited the home.  Copyright Cranbrook Art Museum/Balthazar Korab.

Exterior plaque, Saarinen House. The house is open from tours between May and October and is interpreted to the period in the 1930s when Eliel and Loja Saarinen built and furnished their home. © Cranbrook Art Museum/Balthazar Korab.

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