Fifty Years of Cranbrook Schools

Happy Fiftieth Anniversary, Cranbrook Schools!

But wait. Weren’t the schools opened in the 1920s and 1930s? If the Golden Anniversary milestone seems a little off to you, well, let me explain. 2020 does not mark the anniversary of the individual schools themselves—Brookside was established in 1922, Cranbrook School for Boys in 1927, and Kingswood School in 1931—but for the single entity, Cranbrook Schools.

Newly minted Cranbrook Schools students gather around a Dodge Charger, ca. 1972. Cranbrook Archives.

When the three schools were established by George and Ellen Booth, they were independent institutions loosely united by a shared estate and under the umbrella of the Cranbrook Foundation. But by and large, they were three distinct schools with three distinct heads, three distinct boards, and three distinct staffs.

In 1967, the Cranbrook Foundation centralized management of the three schools’ non-academic functions under the new Cranbrook Business Office. Each school head and the executive director of the Business Office met monthly to discuss mutual problems. New committees and professional staff began to work collaboratively between all three schools.

However, as reported in the Cranbrook Magazine (Summer 1970), this loose connection wasn’t much of an improvement from the old, independent model. There was a feeling that there was still too much redundancy, too little long-term financial planning, and too much untapped potential between Brookside, Cranbrook, and Kingswood.

In the twelve years before 1970, multiple solutions to what was, at its heart, an organizational problem had been put forward. Ultimately, the New York City-based management consultant firm of Heald, Hobson and Associates, Incorporated helped the Cranbrook Foundation develop the winning solution in late 1969: one Cranbrook Schools.

By the summer of 1970, the reorganization was complete. A single Board of Trustees replaced three separate boards and directors. The new board was responsible for the management of the properties and affairs, both academic and non-academic, of Brookside, Cranbrook, and Kingswood.

When students and staff returned in the fall of 1970, they were attending, for the first time, Cranbrook Schools. But very little of the student experience had changed. For instance, the upper school would not be made coeducational until 1985. Yet there was still worry about what this new “Cranbrook Schools” meant for the identity of three proud institutions.

The reorganization created the position of President of Cranbrook Schools. What was the president going to do? Who would fill this new, ambiguous but ambitious administrative role? Following a nationwide search by the new Board of Trustees, who narrowed down hundreds of applicants to thirty-two candidates, on July 1, 1971 Arthur H. Kiendl was installed as Cranbrook Schools President.

Arthur Kiendal, ca. 1970. Photographer: Benyas-Kaufman. Cranbrook Archives.

Art Kiendl (pronounced “Kendall”) came to Cranbrook Schools from the all-boys Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts, where, as headmaster, he coordinated its merger with the nearby girls school, Northfield. Prior to Mount Herman, Kiendl served as dean of students at the University of Colorado (1958-1963) and as an administrator and dean at Dartmouth College (1948-1958). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth and a master’s in education administration from Columbia University.

On his installation, the heads and faculty of the new Cranbrook Schools gathered in the Cranbrook House Library. Kiendl told those gathered, “I think the whole concept is that the schools will merge in the sense of common purpose without loss of identity. They merge for strength and efficiency.” As he eloquently explained to his nervous audience,

I have lived through mergers, I know they are painful, I know they are traumatic, and I know that ultimately they are very exciting. We come together as a federation to be an exciting beacon, because such a beacon is needed, a beacon that believes in such things as humility, trust, honor, and humor for the freedom of the human spirit [. . .]

I hope I can leave you with a sense of rededication in the excitement that George and Ellen both brought to this place; the excitement that we can so trust each other that it can be said of us in the future, ‘they are not only people who dared and cared, but, you know, they loved each other.’

Interestingly, when Cranbrook Magazine reported on the union of the schools in 1970 it was careful to point out that “the reorganization program as evolved combines the strengths of three closely allied organizations. Yet it does not attempt to integrate dissimilar operations (the Institute of Science, Academy of Art, and Christ Church Cranbrook) into one large complex.” Those connections were still managed by the Foundation and the Business Office—until 1973, when, sans church, we became Cranbrook Educational Community. Kiendl was elected as the Community’s first president, a position he held until December 1978.

So, is it a little bit weedy to celebrate fifty years of Cranbrook Schools? Probably. Would it confuse our students and parents to launch a 50th birthday party now, when there’s already chatter about the 100th coming up? Maybe, but who doesn’t love an anniversary, even if it does take an asterisk and a seven-hundred-word blog post to explain!

Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Eds. Note: Speaking of 50th anniversaries! This Sunday, the Center is joining in a national celebration with Docomomo, a modernist architecture preservation organization, to mark “the ’70s turn 50.” Head to our website for tickets, and join us (via Zoom) at 4:00pm for a very groovy virtual tour of the Smith House and Bowlero lanes!

Photo Friday: Foaming Friendship

Prefects scrubbing the Gateway of Friendship plaque, Cranbrook School for Boys. September 18, 1944. Cranbrook Archives.

In the early 1940s, Cranbrook School students Pete Wilson and Tom Tyree wrote a modest suggestion in their “Cranium” column in The Crane student newspaper. The young men, both from the Class of 1943, suggested that students:

…refrain from walking on the plaque in the center of the gateway. It is inscribed “Gateway of Friendship” and it was pointed out that usually we do what we can to strengthen and propagate our friendships rather than trampling on them. The Crane feels this is a good point and a good example of a custom we might start.

The tradition stuck, and today students resist walking over the octagonal “Gateway of Friendship” plaque. One tradition that hasn’t stuck around, unfortunately: the annual scrubbing of the plaque!

Prefects scrubbing the Gateway of Friendship plaque, Cranbrook School for Boys. September 1953. Cranbrook Archives.

Meant to symbolize the importance of friendship among the Cranbrook community, Cranbrook School for Boys Prefects would clean the plaque at the start of each school year. It’s not clear, looking at the photographs, how clean they got the stone compared to how wet and soapy they got themselves, but it was an important symbolic gesture. In caring for the stone, the boys were demonstrating the spirit of the quotes carved into the archway. One, from James Fenimore Cooper, seems especially relevant:

Friendship that flows from the heart cannot be frozen by adversity as the water that flows from the spring cannot congeal in winter.

While the cleaning ceremony was described as a “sacred rite” in 1976 by Bruce Coulter in his history of the School, Forty Years On, I am not sure when or why the tradition stopped.

Gateway of Friendship plaque, unscrubbed. September 2020. Design attributed to Eliel Saarinen, ca. 1927-1928. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

Cranbrook Schools students returned to class this past Monday for a school year like no other, donning masks and sitting at desks spread six feet apart. Instead of scrubbing the plaque, the most important thing students can wash this year is their hands! Maybe the tradition will return for 2021?

Kevin Adkisson, Associate Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

The Monreale Fountain in the Quadrangle

In the center of the Quadrangle at Cranbrook School is a replica of a fountain which stands in the southwestern corner of the cloister of Duomo Monreale in Palermo, Sicily. Completed in 1182, the cathedral unites Arabic, Byzantine, and Norman architectural and cultural influences and is famed for its mosaics.

The inspiration for the fountain’s long-treasured presence on the Cranbrook campus dates back to 1922, when Henry Scripps Booth first saw the original in the cathedral cloister. This was a site that Henry seems to have particularly wanted to see while on a ten-month architectural study tour of Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, and France, with his friend, J. Robert F. Swanson.

View of the Duomo Monreale, December 1922. Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Cranbrook Archives.

Writing to his father, Cranbrook founder George G. Booth, on December 26, 1922, he describes the cathedral thus:

“Mosaic everywhere — luminous gold, and dull colors — with intricate geometric patterns in abundance and fine but rather arcaic [sic] representations of Biblical stories roofed over with a richly decorated trussed ceiling. The cloister in the cathedral’s shade is that delightful one with such delicate columns in pairs, decorated by mosaics, that is illustrated so frequently.”

View of the Duomo Monreale, December 1922. Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Cranbrook Archives.

Henry laments that there isn’t time enough to study the monuments as closely as he would like, to measure them and draw them up, for if they did, they would end up knowing only one thing well but miss out on so many others. His letter includes this sketch of the fountain:

Letter from Henry Scripps Booth to George Gough Booth, December 24-26, 1922. Cranbrook Archives.

Several years later, George is in Naples, Italy, at one of his favored workshops, the Chiurazzi Foundry. On March 2, 1927, George wrote to Henry to tell him of numerous purchases he made at the foundry, all to be gifts to the new Cranbrook School for Boys. While the specific uses of the items might be determined later, as was characteristic of George he had a tentative plan for all of them. The most important was the replica of the Monreale fountain. Here, we can see George’s sketch of the replica fountain, showing its dimensions:

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