[graphic header] Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service

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The idea for Cranbrook Educational Community, a unique 319-acre campus founded in 1904, originated with Detroit philanthropists George and Ellen Booth. George Booth, publisher of the Evening News Association, was also interested in architecture, worked in wrought iron design, and was co-owner of a metal working company called Evans and Booth. In 1906, he was one of the founders of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, and in 1908, the Booths moved into the Albert Kahn-designed Cranbrook House. Booth firmly believed that “a life without beauty is only half-lived” and he strove to develop an artistic community in which artists could live surrounded by architecture, art and nature. The ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement played a big role in the development of Cranbrook, and Booth’s visit to the American Academy in Rome in 1922 solidified his ideas of an environment where talented and ambitious artists come together, influence one another, and contribute to the artistic movements of their time. From 1925 to 1948 the Booths worked closely with Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to develop the original Arts and Crafts studios, Cranbrook School and eventually the remainder of the campus. The Booths believed that Saarinen could help translate their dreams and ideas for Cranbrook into a reality. The community began in 1922 with Brookside Lower School (designed by George Booth and his son, Henry), Christ Church Cranbrook (1926) Cranbrook School for Boys (1928), the Institute of Science (1930), and Kingswood School for Girls (1931). As Cranbrook’s campus took shape, landscaping issues were addressed on a project-by-project basis and Booth commissioned such notable landscape architects as H. J. Corfield, C. DeForest Platt, E. A. Eichstaedt and O. C. Simmonds. The Academy of Art opened in 1932 and quickly attracted students of architecture, sculpture, and painting from around the world. Ultimately, the Cranbrook Academy of Art’s departments included architecture, design, ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, metals and weaving. Some of its most remarkable students included Carl Feiss, Harry Weese, Fumihiko Maki, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Florence Schust Knoll, Ben Baldwin, Ralph Rapson, Gyo Obata, Toshiko Takaezu, Suzanne Vanderbilt, and Edmund Bacon. By the early 1940s the campus had evolved into what Saarinen called a “historic document” of his developing sense of “American” architecture. More than 70 outdoor sculptures of world-renowned sculptor and faculty member Carl Milles, complement Saarinen's architecture, and resident artists, as well as those commissioned by Booth and Saarinen, designed gates, light fixtures and interior furnishings. This environment, one observer noted, encourages students “to invest their own work with the same degree of thoughtfulness, care, delight, imagination, and pride that the things around them showed.” Saarinen's Academy of Art Museum and Library building, completed in 1942, was the last project that Booth and Saarinen worked on together. The Booths and Saarinen all passed away between the years of 1948 and 1950. There were periods of uncertainty as to Cranbrook’s direction in the years following their deaths, but in 1973 the institutions were officially integrated into the Cranbrook Educational Community (CEC) with three divisions: Academy of Art, Institute of Science, and Schools. Today, the community continues to thrive as one of the “most important groups of educational and architectural structures in America” and “a monument to an extraordinary partnership” between the Booths and Saarinen. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, today, the Cranbrook Educational Community's ideals are shaping yet another generation of artists.

The Cranbrook Educational Community is located in Bloomfield Hills, a suburb 25 miles northwest of Detroit along Woodward Avenue. Cranbrook's entrance is at 39221 Woodward Avenue between Lone Pine and Long Lake Road. Click here to find out about Cranbrook's institutional museum hours, numerous public events, and admission fees.

Cranbrook's West Gardens View of the West Gardens

 Carl Mille's Orpheus Fountain Orpheus Fountain
Photographs courtesy of the Cranbrook Educational Community

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