James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

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To be good architecture, the design of the exterior of the building should express the character and purpose for which the interior of the building is used, as “truthful expression” is just as desirable in architecture as it is in all other things in life. — James O. Betelle, The American School Board Journal, April, 1919

Bald, Smiling School Builder Betelle

July 28th, 2006 · No Comments · Diary, Miscellaneous

James O. BetelleToday I ventured over to the Boston Public Library (I’m up in Massachussets this week on vacation), to try and get some odds-and-ends info on Betelle. Having gotten hold of the text of his Time Magazine article a few weeks ago, I wondered if there might have been a photograph to accompany it.

After marveling at the beautiful mosaic ceilings in the entrance hall (awaiting my guest card to be processed), I headed up to the book delivery desk, where my volumes were waiting for me. Wisely I had called ahead the day before to have them pulled. I heaved the three, 800lb. volumes up to the 3rd floor, where another one (the May, 1932 issue of Architecture; a post on this is coming soon) was stored.

Flipping open the bound volume of the 1931 Time Magazines, I fanned and leafed towards the August issue, brimming with cautious anticipation. Ignoring the cover, ignoring the quaint period ads and articles, a skimmed the table of contents and plowed right to page 29. And there he was– James O. Betelle, looking right at me from seventy-five years ago, bald and smiling as promised in the text. His photo is captioned, “One cannot play hard a greater part of the night…”

Nice to finally meet you, James.

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