The Property

Italian workers at Cranbrook, Michael Vettraino is the 4th from the left, ca 1906. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The property had three things that the Booths were looking for: good soil, hills and water. The site was an abandoned farm with just a few stands of mature trees. The Booths originally used the site as a picnicking and vacation spot to get away from the bustle of city life in Detroit. It may be hard to believe, but at the time it took several hours to navigate the 20 miles of rough and dusty roads to Cranbrook, paying fees at three toll gates along the way when they traveled by automobile.

The first owner of what is now Cranbrook was William Morris who bought this land in 1828 with the intention of making it into a farm. He cleared the land but was unable to make it into a successful farm. It is notable that Morris was hired as Oakland County's first Sheriff. Before the 1860’s, records indicate Morris’s barns were sometimes used as a shelter for those passing through who had hardship or needed a place to stay.

East of the present house was the original farmhouse, built by Morris. The Booths lived in the farmhouse initially during the summer from 1904 to 1908.