Sign and Symbol: The Cranbrook House Oak Room Cartouches

Sunday, December 12th 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Cranbrook Virtual Lecture
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304


$20 per Viewer 
Tour will be Password-Protected 
Advance Registration is Required  

Presented by Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research 
and Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary 

Hosted by 
Helen Maiman, Chair, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary
Gregory Wittkopp, Director, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research 

Kevin Adkisson, Curator, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research 

Camille Breen, Docent, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary
Randy Forester, Fund Development Chair, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary
Judy Lindstrom, Gardens Operations Chair, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary

Proceeds from this event support the educational programs of the Center and the House & Gardens Auxiliary. 

Photograph of a cartouche featuring a Christmas tree

This holiday season, experience Cranbrook House in a new, festive way, as we explore a century of history painted onto the walls of the magnificent Oak Room. In a virtual lecture broadcast live from the home of Cranbrook’s founders George and Ellen Booth, Center Curator Kevin Adkisson will introduce you and your family to the events commemorated by the hand-painted Oak Room cartouches. 

Completed twelve years after the family moved into Cranbrook House, the Oak Room served as a place for the growing extended Booth family to play, listen to music, and celebrate the holidays. The first time the Booths used the Oak Room was Christmas night, 1920.  

Two years later, son Henry Scripps Booth found himself reminiscing about important events that had taken place in the room while admiring the beautiful wood paneling, carved by woodcarver John Kirchmayer. These linen-fold panels are topped with decorative shields, or cartouches, that encircle the entire room.  

Photograph of the Oak Room at Cranbrook House with a Christmas tree.

Gathering his painting supplies, Henry painted five cartouches to commemorate special events. These first cartouche paintings marked the wedding of his brother, Warren; a surprise birthday party for his mother; an engagement dinner for a dear cousin; an outing at Cranbrook for local disabled children thrown by his sister, Florence; and, with a twinkling Christmas Tree, that first Christmas celebrated in the Oak Room. 

The Booth family, and later, Cranbrook Educational Community, have continued the tradition of commemorating significant events through paintings on the Oak Room Cartouches. From family weddings and birthdays in the 1920s and 1930s, to important conferences and artistic gatherings in the 1960s, the formation of the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliaries in the 1970s, and up to the construction of the Woodward Avenue Entrance in the 1990s, the cartouches are a story book way to learn the history of Cranbrook. 

In this virtual talk, Cranbrook House & Gardens volunteers will join Curator Kevin Adkisson (virtually) to share the fascinating stories commemorated within the paintings. Notable objects from the founders' personal collections, including gifts the family exchanged at Christmases past, as well as photographs and documents from Cranbrook Archives, will help to tell these enchanting tales.  

Join us on Sunday, December 12, 2021, for Sign and Symbol: The Oak Room Cartouches to learn more about the history of the Oak Room cartouches and about the subjects to be commemorated in the newest additions to Cranbrook’s most interesting wood paneling!  

Photograph of cartouche showing Woodward Entrance to Cranbrook's campus

Established in 2012, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research centralizes the Cranbrook story to increase awareness of—and access to—the diverse art, architectural, landscape, design, and historical resources that comprise the Cranbrook legacy. The Center—which includes Cranbrook Archives—serves broad regional, national, and international audiences through its research initiatives and educational programs that include on-site and online tours, lectures, and numerous behind-the-scenes opportunities. 

Photograph of the portraits of Ellen and George Booth in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House

Established in 1971, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to preserving, restoring, and maintaining Cranbrook House & Gardens and related cultural properties for the enjoyment, education, and cultural enrichment of its members, the Cranbrook community, and the public. 

Photograph of two cartouches representing the Cranbrook House and Gardens Auxiliary

The Uncovering Cranbrook Lecture Series gives audiences an inside look at the many stories of Cranbrook from the staff of the Center for Collections and Research. The series highlights the people and personalities who helped shape our community and form the rich legacy of art, architecture, science, and education that define Cranbrook. 

On the Friday prior to the program date, registered participants will receive an email with instructions on how to join this virtual experience. As this program benefits the operations of both Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary, both not-for-profit organizations, we ask that you do not share the login link with others. Registrations are non-refundable. The program will begin promptly at 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time (EST).  

For additional information in advance of the program, please email or call the Center at 248.645.3307 and leave a message. The Center’s Administrative Office is open Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm.

Cartouches in the Cranbrook House Oak Room, 2019. Photograph by Eric Franchy. Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary.

Cartouche commemorating the first Christmas Tree in the Oak Room in December 1920, painted by Henry Scripps Booth in 1922.  Photograph by Eric Franchy. Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary.

The Oak Room decorated for Home for the Holidays at Cranbrook House Virtual Tour, December 2020. Photograph by Daniel Smith, CAA Architecture 2021. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

Cartouche commemorating the Woodward Access Road and Entrance Feature, painted circa 1994.  Photograph by Eric Franchy. Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary.

Portraits of Ellen Scripps Booth and George Gough Booth hanging beneath cartouches in the Oak Room, December 2020. Photograph by Daniel Smith, CAA Architecture 2021. Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

Cartouches commemorating the formation of Cranbrook Gardens Auxiliary in 1971 and the Cranbrook House Auxiliary in 1974, painted circa 1975.  Photograph by Eric Franchy. Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary.

Registration for this event has closed.