James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

James Betelle, Where Are You? header image 1

The public schools are in the place to us of arms and troops and fleets. They are the nurseries of men. — Rev G. Doane, Inscription on the Cleveland School, Newark

Ernest F. Guilbert, Where Are You?

April 28th, 2007 · 5 Comments · Articles, Biographical, Miscellaneous

If James Betelle was a mystery when this project began, than Ernest F. Guilbert, his partner, was a mystery wrapped in an enigma encased in a block of lucite. There was–and is–very little information regarding this architect who clearly had a strong influence on Betelle.

Today the mystery is lessened. I found his obituary in the Newark Evening News of Friday, December 1, 1916, the same day of his death. It provides as good a biography of Guilbert as we’re likely to get.

Ernest F. Guilbert, Architect, Is Dead

Supervisor of School Construction Was Forty-Seven Years Old–Had Been Ill Two Years.
~
Lectured at Columbia University
~
Newest Type of Educational Buildings here Erected Under His Direction Was Native of Chicago–While with Cass Gilbert Had Charge of Building Union Club, Essex County Court House and Other Large Structures
~
Ernest Foss Guilbert, supervising architect of the Board of Education since 1908, and member of the firm of Guilbert & Betelle, died this morning at his home, 767 Ridge Street. Mr. Guilbert, who was forty-seven years old, had been ill much of the time for the last ten years, although he had attended to his duties in connection with the School Board. It was under Mr. Guilbert’s direction that Newark’s later school buildings have been erected, which, because of their improved facilities and attractive architecture, have brought much fame to the city.

In addition to his work in Newark, Mr. Guilbert was in 1914 a lecturer on school buildings and their equipment at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University. These lectures were given in connection with the course on educational administration. Mr. Guilbert was asked to continue the lectures in 1915, but was obligated to decline because of the state of his health.

Mr. Guilbert was born in Chicago, July 23, 1869. He received his early schooling in Minneapolis, to which city his parents moved during his boyhood. When twenty-one years old, Mr. Guilbert went to Boston and became for a time associated with H.H. Richardson, who was then designing Trinity Church. Returning to Chicago in 1891, Mr. Guilbert worked with Henry Ives Cobb on several of the World’s Fair buildings.

Had Charge of Important Work.
Soon after going to New York in 1899 Mr. Guilbert took charge of Cass Gilbert’s office, during which time he directed the preparation of the drawings for such buildings as the Union Club, United States Customs House in New York, and the Essex County Court House and the American Fire Life Insurance building in this city. Later, Mr. Guilbert became manager of the office of John Russell Pope, among whose clients are William K. Vanderbilt Jr. and John R. McLean Washington.

Mr. Guilbert came to Newark in 1908 and was one of a number of architects who were considered for the head of the construction department of the Board of Education after the formation of the small board. A conference was held with all the candidates for the position and Mr Guilbert was the unanimous choice of the board and of Professor A.D.F. Hamlin of Columbia University, who conducted the examinations.

In 1910 Mr. Guilbert formed a partnership with James O. Betelle who had been an associate of Mr. Guilbert in the New York office of Cass Gilbert and Mr. Pope.

Mr. Guilbert was the advisory architect in the building of Temple B’nai Jeshrun in High Street, one of the most elaborate edifices of its sort in the state. Together with Professor Hamlin and H. Van Buren Magonigle, he also judged the plans in the competition for the temple. The building committee was so pleased with Mr. Guilbert’s work that the members later gave him a silver service.

Served Many Cities.
Mr. Guilbert was employed as consulting expert by school commissions in many cities, and he was often asked to judge plans for the erection of school buildings. He was the architect for Lincoln School, East Orange, and his firm is the official architect for the Board of Education of that city.

Because of Mr. Guilbert’s work in this connection, his firm has for some years specialized in school buildings. It supervised the construction of the Robert Treat Hotel and the extension to the German Hospital.

Mr. Guilbert was a member of the Essex Club and the New Jersey Chapter, American Institute of Architects.

Funeral services will be held Sunday afternoon at 5 o’clock at the home. Further than this arrangements have not been made.

Mr. Guilbert is survived by his wife, Mrs. Anna Elizabeth Freese Guilbert, and one son, Richard, who is a senior in the engineering course at Cornell University. The son came home to spend Thanksgiving and was at his father’s bedside when he died.

Tags: ·

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kimberly Rifflard // Jul 20, 2007 at 7:03 am

    Hi – I am not sure if any still looks at this, but this was my great grandfather. I know the decendents that continue on from here. Anyone out there?

  • 2 Richard Thomas Guilbert, Jr. // Jul 20, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Ernest Foss Guilbert was my grandfather. He died 12 years before I was born and my father spoke of him seldom (for what reason he never said). My sister Jeanne Irmischer (who died two years ago) visited our grandfather’s house in East Orange about 10 years ago and described the neighborhood as having changed dramatically since our grangfather lived there. My father, Richard Thomas, died in 1984 and my mother, Grace Demms Guilbert, died in 1987. My sister. Jeanne, was born on Jan 15, 1931. I was born July 19, 1928. I don’t know how big a load you want. but I’ll be happy to answer any questions. Dick Guilbert

  • 3 Kimberly Rifflard // Nov 12, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Steve – Now for the first time in our lives, Ernest Guilbert has a life – thank you! Not only that, you have captured all facets of Ernest, including pictures of his buildings and their historical significance for my whole family to enjoy. We would never have been able to know Ernest if it weren’t for you. We are all grateful!!

    Great job on the website – I can’t say enough.

    Take care,

    Kim

  • 4 Don // Dec 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Block of lucite indeed. I know the feeling.

  • 5 Ellen // Apr 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful information about E.F. Guilbert. You’ve provided me with a snapshot of who this wonderful architect was. I am doing research on the history of Central High School and this bio information and obituary were invaluable.

    Thank you

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply