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Cranbrook Architectural Office Records

Identifier: 1989-01

Collection Scope

SERIES I: Office Files (1925-1978) includes the general office files generated by the Cranbrook Architectural Office, general correspondence between the CAO and Charles R. Wermuth & Son, Inc., and the correspondence of John H. Buckberrough, John Knight and William McIlroy. SERIES II: Brookside School (also referred to as Bloomfield Hills School and the Children's School) (1928-1954) contains correspondence and building specifications. SERIES III: Christ Church Cranbrook (1927-1954) contains correspondence and specifications. Most of the documents relating to the building of Christ Church Cranbrook will be found in the George G. Booth Papers (1981-1), boxes 17-19. SERIES IV: Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) (1929-1980) contains correspondence, bids and specifications. The majority of the documents in this series were originally in the John Knight Papers. Also see the Richard P. Raseman Papers for additional information. SERIES V: Cranbrook Foundation/Estate (1927-1987) contains documents that pertain to all areas not covered in the other series, such as Valley Farm, Cranbrook House, the Pavilion, St. Dunstan's Playhouse, etc. SERIES VI: Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS) (1930-1954)contains correspondence and specifications. SERIES VII: Cranbrook School (1925-1980) The general bulletins and the Outside Work bulletins are two separate series from #1-#51, then the two series of bulletins apparently converge into one series, so there will be numerical gaps within the two separate series of bulletins. SERIES VIII: Kingswood School (1930-1980) includes correspondence, schedules, bids, specifications, bulletins, additions, requisitions, proposals, contracts, and booklets. SERIES IX: Non-campus Sites (1929-1940) includes documents regarding the design and construction of residences in the South Cranbrook Subdivision which was supervised by the Cranbrook Architectural Office. Thornlea, designed by Swanson and Booth, the precursors of the CAO, is also included in this series. There are also several copies of architectural specifications by other architectural firms which may have been used by the CAO as examples on which to base their specifications. SERIES X: Outside Work (1927-1945) includes paving and roadwork; excavation; barriers and gates; underground and above ground electrical systems; water and gas supply systems; sewage systems; exterior tiling; outdoor sport facilities, etc. Since Outside Work bulletins were issued by both the Cranbrook Architectural Office and the Cranbrook Foundation, there is some repetition of bulletin numbers. When researching a particular building, addition or project, it is suggested that files of a similar date in the more general "Office Files" series also be reviewed for possible additional information. It should also be noted that many of the documents referring to a certain buildings are interrelated. For example, correspondence between Wermuth & Son and the CAO often includes references to particular drawing numbers or bulletin numbers; requisitions sometimes contain dates of related correspondence or bulletin numbers.


  • 1925 - 1987



Access to the collection is unrestricted.


Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.


The Cranbrook Architectural Office was responsible for the supervision, inspection, approval and acceptance of all construction work at Cranbrook. The CAO produced architectural drawings, wrote architectural, mechanical and electrical specifications, issued bulletins of all additions to and deletions from these specifications, and accepted or rejected bids from contractors and subcontractors. The architectural firm of Swanson and Booth designed the Cranbrook Architectural Office Building (now the Cranbrook Academy of Art Administration Building), the first building in the Art Academy group, in 1925. They also began preliminary drawings for the Sextonry at Christ Church Cranbrook, Thornlea (H.S. Booth Residence), Cranbrook School, and the South Cranbrook Subdivision. Eliel Saarinen was brought in as a consultant that same year. In June of 1926, the Cranbrook Architectural Office was officially opened as an independent architectural firm. Soon afterwards, J. Robert F. Swanson chose to leave to start his own firm, and Saarinen and Henry S. Booth remained to manage the CAO. From 1926 until the early 1930s, the staff of the CAO consisted of almost two dozen people, including architects, designers, tracers and renderers. Some were students fresh from the University of Michigan School of Architecture, where Eliel Saarinen had taught design classes from 1923-1925. Others were more experienced veterans of the building trades. The staff during these years included (besides Eliel Saarinen and Henry S. Booth) Harry Boak (who had worked for Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates on Christ Church Cranbrook before joining the CAO in 1926), John H. Buckberrough, Marian Buell, Ralph R. Calder, Wing G. Chan, Talmon A. Davenport, Emily De Loch, George F. Green, Walter Hickey, Robert Kelly, Fritz Kruger, Douglas D. Loree, William B. Matthewson, Jack Mills, Frederic J. Morse, J.L. Oliver, Eero Saarinen, Charles Sestock, Jr., Fred Thompson, Archibald Turnbull, Raymond Weber, and Lewis "Mac" Wetzel. After 1932-33, the CAO staff was greatly reduced, due to both the Depression and the completion of most of the building program. In 1932, Eliel Saarinen was appointed President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. At that time the Cranbrook Architectural Office became part of the Art Academy, rather than functioning as an independent entity as it had before. Richard P. Raseman, the Executive Secretary of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and an architect as well, apparently was largely responsible for the management of the CAO from 1932 to 1943. Ralph Rapson may have also been involved in architectural projects at Cranbrook from 1938 to 1943. In some cases, outside architectural firms (which are listed on the folder headings or in the index) were contracted to do work. John Buckberrough and Raymond Weber remained on the staff until 1955. John Knight and William McIlroy later joined the staff, the former around 1939, the latter in 1948. John Knight remained on the staff until his death in 1942. Henry S. Booth served as consulting architect from 1945 until the mid-1960s.


13.8 Linear Feet (33 MS)

Language of Materials



Records of the Cranbrook Architectural Office which was responsible for the supervision, inspection, approval and acceptance of all construction work at Cranbrook, beginning with Eliel Saarinen's leadership through its closure in the 1980s. The materials reflect the planning and building phases of the Brookside School (BS), Christ Church Cranbrook (CCC), Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA), Cranbrook House, Cranbrook Institute of Science (CIS), Cranbrook School (CS), Kingswood School (KS), and other construction projects. The materials comprise of additions, contracts, correspondence, bids, booklets, bulletins, office files, proposals, requisitions, schedules, and specifications.


The collection is divided into the following ten series: Office Files (boxes 1-4); Brookside School (boxes 5-7); Christ Church Cranbrook (box 7); Cranbrook Academy of Art (boxes 8-14); Cranbrook Foundation/Estate (boxes 14-16); Cranbrook Institute of Science (boxes 16-17); Cranbrook School (boxes 17-26); Kingswood School (boxes 26-30); Non-campus Sites (boxes 31-32); and Outside Work (boxes 32-33).

Most of the series divisions were determined by the distinct building groups on the Cranbrook campus. Each building group is then divided into subseries by individual building, addition or job within that group. Each subseries is further divided according to type of document, which may include correspondence between the CAO and the contractor, Charles R. Wermuth and Son, Inc. (changed in 1942 to Wermuth,Inc.); correspondence between the contractor and various subcontractors; general, mechanical and outside work bulletins; requisitions; and the architectural, electrical or mechanical specifications associated with a particular project. Correspondence may also include booklets, brochures, blueprints and samples of fabric and other materials.

Additional Access

An index to the collection is available.

The names of the buildings on the folder headings are those most commonly used; however, over the years, some of the buildings have been referred to by any number of names. To clarify any discrepancies between building names, please see the cross-referenced "Building Authority List" which has been included as an appendix to this finding aid. Also included as an appendix is a "Building Chronology of Cranbrook.

Custodial History

Records were moved to the Cranbrook House Plan Room from the original CAO in the Academy of Art Administration Building at an unknown prior date. The files were also in the possession of the physical plant at some time. The architectural drawings were gathered together and placed at the plan room in the basement of Cranbrook House by William Powell, one-time head of the physical plant.


The Cranbrook Architectural Office (CAO) files were found in the Plan Room in Cranbrook House by Archivist Beverly Hoffman in March 1982.

Related Materials

George Gough Booth Papers (1981-01) - particularly for information on Christ Church Cranbrook

Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers (1982-05)

John H. Buckberrough Notebooks (1998-18)

Richard P. Raseman Papers (1979-03)

Plans, drawings, details, blueprints, linens and tracings.

Processing History

Collection inventoried by Judith Kirsch in July 1989. The files were processed and the finding aid was written by Mary Beth Kreiner July 1990-January 1991.

Guide to the Cranbrook Architectural Office Records
Original finding aid written by Mary Beth Kreiner.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Resource record created by Nichole L. Manlove.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository