Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Stroll Through the Cranbrook House Gardens

We spent a recent summer morning taking a stroll through the gardens that surround the historic Cranbrook House located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  Thanks to the financial donations of PNC Bank, All Seasons, and Roberts Restaurant Group the grounds surrounding the Cranbrook House are open daily from 9 am to 5 pm this year from May through October for the public to come out and explore.  The 40-acre Cranbrook House Gardens feature formal, woodland and naturalistic gardens featuring fountains, statuary, lakes, streams, and extensive traditional and natural plantings.

The Cranbrook House is the oldest of metropolitan Detroit's grand early 20th century mansions.  It was designed by the noted architect Albert Kahn for the family of George Booth (the wealthy owner of a Canadian iron-working business in Windsor, Ontario) and Ellen Warren Scripps (the eldest child of the founder of the Detroit News).  Booth went to work with his father-in-law helping to build the News into Detroit's largest daily newspaper.  In addition to taking on a prominent role within the Scripps-owned newspaper business which was expanding throughout the Midwest, George Booth also partnered with his brothers to establish a profitable chain of Michigan-based newspapers under the Booth Publishing Company.  In 1904, George and Ellen purchased a run-down 174-acre farm and transformed it into a magnificent estate named Cranbrook after the English town the Booth family originated from.  In their elder years, the Booths transformed  their estate into the Cranbrook Educational Community which includes a private school, a magnificent church, an art museum, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cranbrook Institute of Science.  The Cranbrook House and Gardens have been preserved as a historic landmark and also provides office space for the non-profit foundation which oversees the Cranbrook Educational Community.

While strolling through the gardens is free there is a $10 charge to tour the mansion. There are discounts for seniors, students with ID, and active duty military.  Admission fees are also charged for visiting the Art and Science museums on the Cranbrook campus.  Still there is plenty to see wandering around the meadows, wooded trails, and gardens surrounding the Cranbrook House.

During our visit we spotted a wealth of wild life including a beaver, bunny, chipmunk, butterflies, dragonflies, fish in the ponds and a number of birds along with a variety of attractive plants and flowers as we walked throughout the landscape.  The Cranbrook Gardens are also filled with fountains, sculptures and other artwork.

Make sure to download the free app available for both Android and Apple mobile devices before you visit that provide self-guided tours of the grounds complete with useful facts, vivid photographs, and video segments to enhance your experience exploring the gardens.  It can come very handy not just for finding out interesting information about your surroundings but also for helping find your way around the grounds.

There are plenty of special spots that are fun for kids to discover during a trip to the Cranbrook House Gardens.  Two of my kids favorites during our visit included a nook in a sunken garden that looks like something you'd find in a fairy tale and a charming bridge over the manor's driveway you'll find while taking the trail from the visitor parking lot to the Cranbrook House.

The visitor parking lot is off Lone Pine Road located on the north side of the street across from Christ Church.  Park your vehicle and either walk up the Cranbrook House's original driveway or take a short hike along a wooded trail to reach the gardens.  There are also restrooms located within the parking lot's check-in building.  That is important to know especially when traveling with little ones because there aren't a lot of other options when you start walking around.  For more information about the place visit or call 248-645-3147.

During our mid-week morning visit, my kids and I had the run of the place with literally no one around other than volunteer gardeners and some construction workers doing maintenance which made it really enjoyable to explore the gardens and trails surrounding the Cranbrook House.  For a relaxing stroll, adventurous trek, bird watching, gardening tips, or to take in some interesting art, if you live in or are traveling to Metro Detroit stopping by the Cranbrook House & Gardens is well worth a visit.  My kids and I had a wonderful time taking in the art and scenery.

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