James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

James Betelle, Where Are You? header image 1

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. — John Cotton Dana, Inscription over entrance of the Newark Normal School

That’s “B” as in “Betelle”

July 21st, 2006 · No Comments · Diary, Miscellaneous

My partner in detective work recently contacted the Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society, knowing that JOB lived in Short Hills for a period. The Betelle cult grows stronger; a member of the Society responded with some great new information, having done considerable detective work:

While at the museum last night a volunteer and I looked for information about J.O. Betelle. I was surprised to find a local-architects file with a faint “Gilbert & Batelle” written on the tab. It had only a single piece of paper inside, upon which someone had written that they designed the addition to the Christ Church Nursery School. I have been working on the archives of the church and will look through the architect’s plans I found there and see if I can find his plans for that.

We also checked our (incomplete) business directories of local residents and found the Betelle family at West Road in the 1936 through 1952 directories. The directories noted that Betelle was an architect and his business was in Newark NJ. His wife was Marie L. and no children were noted with them (as his biography concurs).

She didn’t stop there, though; she tracked down the actual house he lived in and found a most tantalizing detail:

After we left the museum at 5:30, we drove by to see the house and because we wondered whether he designed it…it is a fairly non-descript house with a stone center portion and an oval window in what I presume is the attic. The left side of the house is white-painted brick and the right side is clapboard. Scrolling ironwork embellishes the front porch and railings and while we sat and looked at it, the other person noted that there seems to be some decorative ironwork on the door. The outside door is a newer, mostly glass storm door and Betelle House Doorthe inside door seems to be wood, but somewhere between the two (part of the storm door?), and certainly behind the glass of the storm door, was decorative ironwork that seems to have a “B” in the center.

I talked to the owner very briefly. She gave me permission to photograph the door (which she said was original). She knew nothing about Betelle.

The included photo shows the iron “B”. There are also photos of the house itself, not included for privacy reasons, but I can say it is very stately and proud, it seems very much in Betelle’s character (of what we know). Key points to take away from this:

  • JOB’s wife was named “Marie L.”
  • Their address is confirmed with the newspaper article.
  • Their house has a “B” monogram on the door (one wonders what else remains in the house from them…)
  • We know he lived there from approximately 1936-1952. Since most of his works (that we know of) were completed by 1930-35, perhaps this was a period of retirement?

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