Getting a Green Roof

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.

Kingswood Roof Construction Copyright Cranbrook Archives

Workers assembling the roof structure above Unit A, the classroom wing of Kingswood School for Girls. The copper roof behind them is already installed. No barrels of uric acid can be spotted in construction photos. c. 1931. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

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.”

Kingswood Early Slide c 1940 Copyright Cranbrook Archives

Color slide of Kingswood School for Girls showing the harmony between landscape, building mass, and materials. c. 1940-1945. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

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!


Progress on the new roof. Phase one, completed in 2002, is at the far left and already dull brown. The original (though urethane coated) roof is at right. The new copper roof is shining at the center. May 27, 2006. Courtesy of C.A.S.S. Sheet Metal Specialist, Detroit.

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.

May The Fork Be With You



forkeditedEliel Saarinen taught his students to always consider how the design of one object fits within the next largest context; the building within the city plan, the furniture within the room, down to the fork on the table. Kingswood School for Girls embodies this philosophy, and is considered a “total work of art” designed by the Saarinen family. But that doesn’t mean the Saarinens designed everything in the building: Eliel knew when to delegate, not only to his wife Loja, daughter Pipsan, and son Eero, but also to others, like rugs and fabrics in the school designed by Studio Loja Saarinen weavers Maja Andersson Wirde, Lillian Holm, and others.

Instrumental in decorating the school, Loja Saarinen also used her design eye to choose existing wares from the market to compliment the environment being created at Kingswood.  The 1938 Kingswood School Cranbrook Inventory of Equipment and Supplies is full of entries like this one from May 1934: “Voucher No. 5547, Nessen Studio, Inc., 18 Nut Dishes for Kingswood School (ordered by Mrs. Saarinen).”  The flatware in the Kingswood Dining Hall is another prime example of an existing design used to complete the Saarinens’ vision.

The International Silver Company was a conglomerate of New England silver producers formed in 1898. Subsidiaries of International Silver, like Rogers Bros. and Wilcox Silver Plate Company, continued using their marks on works created under the new organization.  The silver-plate pattern selected for the Kingswood School for Girls dining hall was the International Silver Company’s “Silhouette” pattern.  Though Eliel Saarinen collaborated as a designer with International Silver on a number of projects—including his famous Tea Urn and Tray—the “Silhouette” pattern was designed by Leslie A. Brown, who held a number of design patents while working for International Silver Company. “Silhouette” was produced under both the International Silver Company name and the 1847 Rogers brand.


Advertisement from Hotel Management, Volume 17, Issue 6 (June 1930), Section 2, page 365.

The ladies of Kingswood used these beautiful pieces on Saarinen designed tables, with plates from the Syracuse China Company (hotel ware division) with a Saarinen-designed Kingswood School crest on them.  Dinners at Kingswood were formal affairs, so there were many pieces to each complete set of flatware.


Detail from an image of the Junior-Senior Banquet at Kingswood School, June 1941. Notice the “Silhouette” flatware, the crested serving ware, and the Saarinen-designed Silver Centerpiece (KS 1991.1). Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

The 1938 Inventory lists the following forms purchased through Marshall Field & Company for use in the dining hall: Viande* Knives, Viande* Fork, Individual Salad Forks, Individual Fish Forks, Bouillon Spoons, Butter Spreaders, Teaspoons, Dessert Forks, Cocktail Forks, Dessert Spoons, Table Spoons, Coffee Spoons, Soup Ladles, and Cold-Meat Forks.  The flatware had a “Butler finish” – a matte or frosted finish — on 18% nickel silver blanks — a metal alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, highly resistant to corrosion and tarnish.  All pieces were marked “Kingswood School.”


Viande fork (top of page), butter spreader, and bouillon spoon from the Cultural Properties Collection, Kingswood School for Girls. Courtesy of Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

The flatware was used for everyday dining as well as more formal dinners, but as dining at Cranbrook became less formal and the student body increased in size, more utilitarian commercial-grade knives, spoons, and forks were introduced. Luckily, we still have many of these original pieces in storage for study and display.

*”Viande” is French for “meat” but in this case refers to a form of flatware with longer handles with shorter blades or tines.  It was supposed to fit more comfortably in the hands, advertised as having “smartness and being chic.”

Leslie S. Mio is the Assistant Registrar for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and the Cranbrook Art Museum.


Photo Friday: Autumn Traditions

With foliage nearing its peak color, there are many reminders of fall here on campus. The image below is yet another tribute to the season—the Kingswood School Autumn Festival. The first Athletic Association Carnival was held in December, 1932, and was the precursor to the Autumn Festival. By 1934 the annual event had been renamed by Headmistress Margaret Augur.

Themes varied, for example, the 1936 festival was fashioned after “modern” America and included an Apache dance and a skyscraper dance by the juniors with the sidewalks of New York as the background set. The 1939 theme was the Old South and ended with a rousing version of “Dixie” as the grand finale. The November 1939 Clarion reports, “Cranbrook as usual was well represented. After their hectic day of soccer, football, tea-dance, etc., we managed to wear them out, so that it was finally decided that bed at eleven was necessary for all. Thus ended the autumn festival.”

Autumn Festival, Oct 1944.

Autumn Festival, Oct 1944.

The 1944 theme (as shown above) simulated South America. Entertainment included costumed students singing “Down Argentina Way” and “Besame Mucho.” In addition to rumba and samba dancing, the night ended with a lively conga to “Cui Cui .” Wouldn’t it be fun if we could revive this tradition?

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

It’s that magical time of year again, daylight is a little bit shorter and parents begin to try and return their kids to a bedtime schedule –it’s back to school time. For some, this is a glorious time of year – a new beginning, the changing leaves as Fall ushers in. September always reminds me of a line from the movie, “You’ve Got Mail.” Joe Fox says to Kathleen Kelly in a chat room, “Don’t you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

Here at The Archives we often receive email and calls from alumni. I recently received an inquiry from a Kingswood alum who shared some amazing stories with me and also piqued my interest in student organizations here at Cranbrook.

From the first days at Cranbrook and Kingswood schools, clubs and organizations were an integral part of student life. In addition to student newspapers, literary publications, and government—students participated in riding clubs, glee club, bridge club, and the stamp club. In 1938, the Areopagus club saw its membership swell. According to The Brook, students could be found “arguing over some minor question that momentarily assumed importance.”

Cranbrook School Radio Club, 1935. Photographer, Richard G. Askew.

Cranbrook School Radio Club, 1935. Photographer, Richard G. Askew.

Several of the earliest clubs and organizations still exist at Cranbrook schools today, including the Radio Club and Ergasterion—an organization representing theatre productions. Other clubs continue to unite alumni, such as “The Trifling Monographs of Birmingham, Michigan,” which had its first meeting in September 1971. The five founding members were Susan Rice (a 5th grade teacher at Brookside School); Lucy Chase Williams, then a Kingswood junior; John Gerard, then a Cranbrook junior; and Michael A. Cooper and Dion Kerr, Cranbrook sophomores.

The club was a scion of the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI)—an organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts founded in New York in 1932. The BSI is considered the preeminent Sherlockian group in the U.S. and has published the Baker Street Journal since 1946. A local member of the BSI was a mentor to The Trifling Monographs (TTM) and regularly quizzed the members. The group took several field trips and in 1972 traveled to Canada to see the Windsor Light Opera production of the musical, “Baker Street.” In 1973, when Williams matriculated to Yale, the TTM became a corresponding scion, and remains so to this day.

KS student Lucy Chase Williams, head of the TTM, reads an issue of the Clarion in the Kingswood School Common Room, 1973. Photograph courtesy of Lucy Chase Williams.

KS student Lucy Chase Williams, head of the TTM, reads an issue of The Clarion in the Kingswood School Common Room, 1973. Photograph courtesy of Lucy Chase Williams.

As students head back to school after the Labor Day weekend, they will have much to look forward to above and beyond their studies. Today the upper school boasts nearly 40 clubs and organizations, including Anime, Beekeeping, Wilderness Expedition, Chamber Music, and Random Acts of Kindness.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Corajoyce Rauss (1925-2015): A Cranbrook Legend

The Archives was saddened to learn this week of the passing of Corajoyce Nancy Lane, of Bloomfield Hills, who worked at Cranbrook for over five decades. Raised by parents who taught her that women didn’t, and shouldn’t, work, Corajoyce (who was headstrong even at a young age!) tried to convince her parents to let her get a job. Her first thought was airplane pilot, followed by truck driver so that she could drive across the country! Instead, at the age of 20, without her parents’ permission, she responded to an ad in the Birmingham Eccentric for a photographer’s assistant at the Cranbrook Foundation. Corajoyce was offered the job by staff photographer Harvey Croze, and finally received consent from her parents. The job only lasted two months, which she followed with a job working for Margaret Auger, then headmistress of Kingswood School. In 1948, Corajoyce married Robert Rauss (they honeymooned at a dude ranch in Colorado) and two years later, left Cranbrook to become a stay-at-home mom to her daughter.

Corajoyce Rauss, Nov 1947.

Corajoyce Rauss, Nov 1947. Harvey Croze, photographer.

In 1961, Corajoyce returned to Cranbrook, this time securing a job as Henry Scripps Booth’s personal secretary. As she and Henry became lifelong friends, she was given more responsibility and became the manager of Henry’s personal estate. During her tenure at Cranbrook, Corajoyce met Carl Milles, Zoltan Sepeshy and Eliel Saarinen among others. George and Ellen Booth used to drop by Kingswood School, often unannounced, and Corajoyce also met visitors including Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein, and Princess Christina of Sweden.

Arthur Witleff and Corajoyce Rauss, Jan 1962.

Arthur Wittliff and Corajoyce Rauss, Jan 1962. Harvey Croze, photographer.

Soon after Henry’s death in 1988, Corajoyce began work at the Cranbrook Archives as the part-time bookkeeper. She volunteered additional time and took on the task of organizing, with the help of a core of volunteers, the Booth family photographs, creating photo albums that are housed in the Archives today. She worked tirelessly on compiling The Cranbrook Booth Family of America genealogy which required copious amounts of correspondence with various Booth family members. Her hard work and dedication earned her Cranbrook’s President’s Award for Excellence in 1990. Corajoyce remained a fixture at Cranbrook Archives until her retirement in 2007. She was once quoted as saying that she “lived a Cinderella life.” While Cranbrook has lost a dedicated employee, her love of Cranbrook and the work she accomplished here lives on in the Archives.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: The Art of Richard Thomas

While researching an archival query this past week I discovered yet more hidden gems in our collection—the work of metalsmith Richard Thomas (1917-1988). Thomas held several positions at Cranbrook, including Head of the Metalsmithing Department, Dean of Students, Registrar, and Administrative Assistant to the President. The Archives has a small collection which documents many of Thomas’ private commissions.

One of the key works he created for Cranbrook was the Ceremonial Mace (1978) at the request of the Cranbrook Educational Community. Traditionally, the Christian processional cross had been carried at Cranbrook and Kingswood Upper School graduation ceremonies, but by the 1970s, upper school students objected to the fact that the cross did not accurately reflect the religious beliefs of the diverse student body. In 1973 and 1974, Kingswood head, Wilfred Hemmer, moved the cross from the front of the processional to the rear, then in 1975 agreed to remove it from the ceremony altogether.

Cranbrook Mace

Photo courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum.

After Hemmer’s resignation in early 1976, acting head Christopher Corkery reinstated the processional cross and a student protest ensued. Letters to the editor were written to both upper school newspapers and four Kingswood seniors refused to attend the Kingswood commencement. By May, ten percent of the student body threatened to boycott the ceremony.

Thomas’ design of the Cranbrook Mace incorporates symbols of four major religions: the Christian cross, the Star of David, the Crescent of Islam, and the symbol of Yin and Yang which represents the Eastern philosophies of China, Japan, India and Indonesia. The seals of the Cranbrook institutions are also a part of the design of the mace, which is made of rosewood, ivory, steel, sterling silver and gold.  The Cranbrook Mace is still used in graduation ceremonies to this day.

Richard Thomas sketch

Sketch from the Richard Thomas Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

In 1981, Thomas was awarded the Cranbrook’s Founders Medal. His design and fabrication of liturgical objects can be seen in more than ninety churches, synagogues, and temples across the country. He designed the Cranbrook Foundation’s silver punch bowl, the Saarinen Medal, and the commemorative medal for the Academy of Art’s fiftieth anniversary.

Gina Tecos, Archivist and Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: A Splash of Color

Kingswood School Rose Lounge. Cranbrook Archives

Kingswood School Rose Lounge, The Cranbrook Hand-Colored Lantern Slide Collection. Cranbrook Archives

As the weather here at Cranbrook is more than a little dreary, today’s photo provides a look into a bright and cozy atmosphere perfect for reading, relaxing and being inside. Taken around 1932, it shows a group of students gathered in the lounge of the Kingswood School dormitory (originally known as Reception Room III) listening to two of their peers play the piano. The photograph comes from Cranbrook Archives’ Hand-Colored Lantern Slide Collection. The photographs in this collection were originally black-and-white and were painted with watercolor years later, and not by the original photographer. This jump in time explains the vibrant color choices in the photograph as the painter was not present when the image was originally captured.

The Cranbrook Hand-Colored Lantern Slide Collection contains over 30 images of Cranbrook institutions taken primarily during the 1920s and 1930s. Several of the original black and white images were taken by architectural photographers for inclusion in publications.

Today’s photo was taken by George W. Hance, Cranbrook’s first paid staff photographer (1931-1932). Hance had been commissioned by George Booth as early as 1916 to photograph his art collection and later photographed Cranbrook’s campus and grounds including Kingswood, Cranbrook House (home to George and Ellen Booth) and Thornlea (home to Henry Scripps Booth). Explore more photographs like these on our digital image database or in person at the Archives!

Stefanie Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research



Happy Belated Birthday to Our Founder!

September 24th marked the 150th birthday of Cranbrook’s founder, George Gough Booth. Born in Toronto, Mr. Booth had an early interest in art and architecture. In 1881 his family moved to Detroit and he put his artistic talents to work by purchasing half of an interest in an ornamental ironworks firm. The business was successful and used many of Booth’s product designs.

George Gough Booth, ca 1876.  W. E. Lindop, photographer.  Cranbrook Archives

George Gough Booth, ca 1876. W. E. Lindop, photographer. Cranbrook Archives

In 1887 Booth married Ellen Warren Scripps, daughter of Detroit News founder James Scripps. The following year he sold his share in the ironworks business and joined the News staff as its business manager. The News blossomed under Booth’s direction, becoming one of the leading metropolitan dailies in the nation. In 1906, Booth became president of the newspaper, succeeding his father-in-law.

In 1904 George and Ellen Booth purchased a run-down 174 acre farm in Bloomfield Hills and named it Cranbrook after Booth’s ancestral town in England. Booth called upon his long-time friend, and noted Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, to prepare working drawings for the building of Cranbrook House. Kahn responded with an English Arts and Crafts inspired design the Booths moved into their new home in 1908.

In 1922, believing their country estate could serve a larger public purpose, the Booths shifted their focus toward building the six institutions at Cranbrook: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook School (for boys), Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Kingswood School (for girls). George Booth was a visionary, and with his wife Ellen, set new standards for generosity, leaving us a legacy we are proud to be a part of. Happy belated birthday George!

“We were unwilling to go through life with our aims centered mainly in the pursuit of wealth and with a devotion wholly to the ordinary opportunities for social satisfaction.  We were not willing to leave all of the more enduring joys for our children or the joy of work in so good a cause entirely to our friends after we had passed on; rather did we wish, in our day, to do what we could and give tangible expression now to our other accomplishments by adventures into a still more enduring phase of life.  We wished to see our dreams come true while we were, to the best of our ability, helping to carry on the work of creation.”  (George Gough Booth, Address at Founders Day, October 28, 1927)

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Fashioning Architecture

In 1931, attendees at the Beaux-Arts Ball in New York came dressed to impress. An annual party thrown by the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, the ball featured a different theme each year. 1931’s theme of “Fete Moderne — a Fantasie [sic] in Flame and Silver” was inspired by the New York skyline and the iconic skyscrapers that had recently come to define it. Fully committing to the theme, many guests came dressed as famous New York buildings. In this photo William Van Alen holds center court as the Chrysler Building (of which he was the architect) while other personified buildings crowd around him.

William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, with other masquerading architects around him. On the far right is Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York.  Source: NY Times/

William Van Alen as the Chrysler Building, with other masquerading architects around him. On the far right is Joseph Freelander as the Museum of the City of New York. Source: NY Times/


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Photo Friday: Wartime Conservation, Kingswood-Style

Kingswood students Blenda Isbey, Irene Bard, and Nollie Campbell collect waste fat after their Home Economics class at Kingswood School, 1944. Harvey Croze, Cranbrook Archives.

During World War II, students at the Cranbrook and Kingswood Schools became increasingly involved in homefront activities. Here, Kingswood students Blenda Isbey, Irene Bard, and Nollie Campbell collect waste fat after they’ve finished their Home Economics class. Fat could be used to make soap, in great demand because of wartime rations, but was also consolidated for use in explosives.

Poster advocating the re-use of waste fats in explosives. Henry Koerner, Printed by the Office of War Information, 1943. National Archives.

Poster advocating the re-use of waste fats in explosives. Henry Koerner, Printed by the Office of War Information, 1943. National Archives.

Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow

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