James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

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Let us live with our children — Friedrich Froebel, Inscription over kindergarten entrance, State Normal School, Jersey City

James Betelle Obituaries

August 8th, 2006 · No Comments · Articles, Biographical

These are the two obituaries I found for Betelle at the Newark Public Library. The first is from The Newark Evening News from June 5th, 1954. This was a Sunday, which establishes Betelle’s death as Thursday, June 3rd (whether that is the local or Italian date is unknown). The second obit (source unclear) is almost identical to the first, but does give one new bit of information: it confirms that Betelle was buried in Florence.

JAMES O. BETELLE, 75
Retired Newark Architect, Specialist in School Buildings,
Dies in Florence, Italy

The Newark Evening News, June 5, 1954

James O. Betelle, retired Newark architect who rose from a $2-a-week clerk in an architect’s office to become one of the country’s outstanding designers of educational buildings, died Thursday in Florence, Italy. Mr. Betelle, who was 75, had been suffering from a heart ailment.
Mr. Betelle, who formerly lived in Short Hills, had spent much of his time traveling in recent years. He went to Italy earlier this Spring.

With completion of Weequahic High School in 1932 his firm, Guilbert & Betelle, had supervised construction of schools valued at more than $100,000,000. Included in the firm’s work were 125 schools in Delaware, the gift of Pierre S. duPont to the state.

Art School Designer
Other examples of his work in Newark are Newark School of Fine Art and Industrial Art, Essex County Girls’ Vocational School, West Side High School, Robert Treat Hotel, Essex County Hall of Records, Essex Club and Newark Chamber of Commerce Building.

His firm also designed the State Teachers colleges in Jersey City and Glassboro, Annandale Reformatory and the State Hospital for the Insane at Hillsdale. Other schools for which the concern was the architect were Columbia High School and Montrose and Clinton schools in the South Orange-Maplewood district, Vernon L. Davey Junior High School, East Orange and the High School and Jefferson School, Summit.

Mr. Betelle was born in Wilmington, Del., April 1, 1879, and attended public schools there until he was 16.

Upon leaving school, Mr. Betelle worked for $2 a week in the office of Cope & Stewartson, Philadelphia architects, while attending the School of Industrial Arts in that city.

1910 Start in Newark
Later, after studying in Europe, Mr. Betelle worked in the office of John Russell Pope, a leading New York architect. In 1910 he formed a partnership with Ernest F. Guilbert, and they opened an office in Newark.

Mr. Guilbert died in 1916. The next year Mr. Betelle closed the office to accept a captaincy in the Army Sanitation Corps when the United States entered World War I. Demobilized, Mr. Betelle started over again in Newark.

Mr. Betelle was elected president of Newark Chamber of Commerce in 1926 and re-elected in 1927. He served for a time on the North Jersey Transit Commission and Newark Zoning Board.

He was elected president of the New Jersey Society of Architects and New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Architects, in 1920. In 1932 he was chosen regional director of the Middle Atlantic Division of the institute, of which he was a fellow.

~~~

J.O. BETELLE RITES ABROAD
Noted Schools Architect Died in Italy, Will Be Buried There
June 6, 1954 (source undetermined)

Funeral services and burial for James O. Betelle, retired Newark architect, will be held in Florence, Italy. Mr. Betelle, who before his retirement was one of the nation’s outstanding designers of educational buildings, died Thursday in Florence.

Mr. Betelle, who was 75, had suffered from a heart ailment. He formerly lived in Short Hills but in recent years had spent much of his time traveling. He went to Italy earlier this year.

He was born in Wilmington, Del., April 1, 1879 and attended public schools there until he was 16. Upon leaving school Mr. Betelle went to work for $2 a week in the office of a Philadelphia architectural firm while studying at the School of Industrial Arts there. Later he studied in Europe.

Partnership in Newark
In 1910 he formed a partnership with Ernest F. Guilbert and they opened an office in Newark. Mr. Guilbert died in 1916. After serving as a captain in the Army in World War I, Mr. Betelle returned to Newark and renewed the business.

Among the buildings designed by Mr. Betelle’s firm in Newark are Weequahic High and West Side high schools, Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art, Essex County Girls’ Vocational School, Robert Treat Hotel, Essex County Hall of Records, Essex Club and Newark Chamber of Commerce Building. His concern’s offices were in the chamber building.

Mr. Betelle also was the architect for buildings of the State Teachers, Colleges at Jersey City and Glassboro and Annandale Reformatory. Other schools he designed were Columbia High School and Montrose and Clinton schools of the South Orange-Maplewood district, Vernon L. Davey Junior High School, East Orange and the High School and Jefferson School, Summit.

He was also the architect for numerous schools in other states, including 125 in Delaware which were the gift to the state by Pierre S. duPont. The Delaware project provided the impetus for Mr. Betelle’s specialization in school design.

Mr. Betelle was a former president of Newark Chamber of Commerce and also served for a time on the North Jersey Transit Commission and the Newark Zoning Board. He also has served as president of the New Jersey Society of Architects, and the New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Architects.

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