James Betelle, Where Are You?

The Search for a Lost Architect

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The citizens of our country have continually demanded better and better educational facilities for their children, and they will continue to do so as long as this country remains a republic. — James O. Betelle, Architecture, May, 1932

Maplewood, Mid-Century

May 26th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Architecture

I recently acquired  a 20 minute reel of 16mm silent color home movies, shot in Maplewood, New Jersey, in the 1950s-60s. In it are typical scenes of a family’s life; Church, Christmas, Halloween, hanging out at the pool, etc. Interspersed with this are scenes around Maplewood that any resident will easily recognize. Cars and clothes have changed, but the buildings and landscape remain much the same.

The filmographer apparently loved Guilbert & Betelle’s Maplewood Municipal Building, which is featured heavily (Columbia High School also makes a brief appearance). I’ve added some music and edited the film to focus on these aspects. Enjoy.

 

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Columbia’s Auditorium Finally Getting Some TLC?

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments · Architecture

Marcia Worth at Patch, on Columbia High Schools wonderful auditorium that is in desperate need of restoration:

But like an old home that has been lived in for generations, the auditorium is due for some renovation. The South Orange-Maplewood Education Foundation‘s fundraiser “A Night on the Towns,” scheduled for Sunday, May 23, has designated the auditorium as the recipient of the event proceeds. The evening is part of “Take a Seat,” SOMEF’s campaign to raise extra funds to complete the district’s planned renovation of the auditorium.

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Doings in the Hive of the Three Busy B’s

October 14th, 2009 · No Comments · Biographical, Miscellaneous

Office parties—when the staff lets their hair down, the boss awkwardly pretends to be “one of the gang”, and at least one person gets embarrassingly drunk—are a staple of the corporate world. These days, such events are limp, pathetic affairs, attended with the same enthusiasm as your average dental cleaning.

Last week, during one of my periodic sweeps of the Google book archive, I came across a tantalizing snippet of an article from Pencil Points magazine referring to a “Sketch no. 8, Doings in the Hive of the Three Busy B’s, Betelle, Bauer, Behee”. If this was a drawing of the men in their office it would be a great find, as no photos like that have turned up. Well, it ended up not being a reference to an artistic sketch, but rather a theatrical one—as part of an elaborate office party.

The soiree was held on the evening of February 18, 1922, and apparently nautical themed (“all hands”, “Pilot of the Ship”, etc.). Written in the playfully satiric tone of a drafting room insider, the article gives a tangible feel for these people, at a time when an office party was not only well regarded, but put together with zeal, humor and sincerity. Just the image of Betelle — “Jimmy” — dancing with the ladies into the “wee sma’ hours of the morning” is priceless.

OFFICE FORCE OF GUILBERT & BETELLE HOLD GET-TOGETHER PARTY

A get-together party which was so great a success that it will undoubtedly  be followed by other occasions of a similar nature, was held on the evening of February 18 by the office force of Guilbert & Betelle, Architects, Newark, N.J. The purpose was to foster a spirit of co-operation and good fellowship between the members of the firm and the members of the office force, also among the men themselves.

At twelve o’clock noon all hands turned to and cleared one of the large drafting rooms of drafting tables, horses and the instruments of torture. The various committees attended by the nouveaus bearing crêpe paper, table covers, pots of paste, nails, etc., proceeded to decorate the room and erect the “amphitheater” and stage. Palms and flowers were then arranged about the room to complete the transformation. The other drafting rooms and offices were turned into cloak room, smoking room, refreshment emporium, etc.

At five o’clock the entire suite of rooms was in readiness. Seven-thirty found those who were to participate in the festivities assembled, and the deck cleared for “active service.”

The first action encountered was the bombardment of “big eats” by the colored gunners, ably captained by “Our Ever-hungry Kit-Kat.” Sustenance disposed of and the remnants cleared away, the following program was rendered: “Program—Divers Sketches Dug Up From Davey Jones’ Locker for the Occasion of the Gathering of the Force of the Office of Guilbert & Betelle, Together with their Better 99.9 and Friends, Sisters, etc. Eats (Not imperative, but helpful to the following). Sketch No. 1, A Few Remarks by the Pilot of the Ship, Mr. J. O. Betelle. Sketch No. 2, Monologue—-‘Her first Visit to the Butcher,’ Miss Lewellyn, P. Lansing, Daughter of Our Lansing. Sketch No. 3, Our Lansing at the Piano. Sketch No.4, ‘Saving a Seat at a Benefit,’ Miss Lansing. Sketch No. 5, Clothes-pin Practice for Home Usefulness. Sketch No. 6, Solos by Mrs. C. M. Rheinhardt, ‘The Lilac Tree’ and ‘The Crow’s Egg.’ Hornpipe alias Jazz. ‘Punch Brothers Punch.’ Stand by for two minutes for Part Two. More Sketches. Sketch No. 7, Declamation., ‘Casey at the Bat,’ by Mr. Robert Sands (Wan of the Min). Sketch No. 8, Doings in the Hive of the Three Busy B’s, Betelle, Bauer, Behee.’ by Messrs. Elsasser; Lindsley, Sands and Ferriss. Sketch No. 9, Duet: ‘The Force,’ Mr. Fred Kuchler, with piano background by Mr. Lansing. Sketch No. 10, Chorus, by the Office Singing Society; Herr Sands, leader, Herr Kuchler, Herr Kuglemann, Herr Heinerwald, Herr Lindsley, Herr Elsasser, Herr Ferriss, Herr Langmann. Sketch No. 11, Peanut Practice for Persistent Pencil Pushers (Contest). All hands on deck—prize, the peanut. Hornpipe 2. More Punch. Also Hornpipe 3. Ad Lib. Go as far as you like. Ladies are cautioned not to rush the Pilot for Dances, we need him in the business. Mr. Bauer dances but is indifferent about it. Mr. Behee does not care for dancing at all. Station B-B-B, Located at Newark, N. J. We are signing off. Good Night.”

A feature of this program that brought great applause was “In the Hive of the Three Busy B’s,” by Fred A. Elsasser, Girard Lindsley, Robert J. Sands and John T. Ferriss. In this sketch the members of the firm, James O. Betelle, Charles Bauer and Grant A. C. Behee were caricatured. “The Force,” a duet, the words of which were written by Fred Kuchler, was made up of amusing verses about the various members of the office force, and caused much merriment.

After the rendering of the program there was dancing into the “wee sma’” hours of the morning, during which “Jimmy” made it a point to dance with every lady, one of the ways in which he showed his good fellowship and hearty co-operation in making the party a success.

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Something Beautiful

September 16th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Architecture, Articles

The April, 1915 issue of The School-Arts Magazine (“For Those Interested in Drawing & Handicraft”) ran a flowery piece, “Something Beautiful”, extolling the “rhythmic and refined” qualities of the Ridge Street School and Newark Normal School. Preceding the glowing praise are quotes from Ralph Adams Cram, “architect of some of the finest Gothic churches in America” (and notably the campus of Princeton University). Edited portions below.

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ridgeEverybody knows of the work of Ralph Adams Cramm [sic]. Having made one reputation as the architect of some of the finest Gothic churches in America, he is now making another as the architect of some of the finest polychromatic structures in America, the buildings of the Rice Institute at Houston, Texas. But not so many people know of Mr. Cramm’s literary productions. Here is a quotation from his “Ministry of Art”:

“Art may no longer remain ‘cribbed, cabined, and confined’ in the private possession of those who can pay its price: as it is the language of the people, so must it become their free possession. Architecture has always been for all men, for none could hide its light—or darkness, perhaps—under a bushel; but all the other arts must come forth into the open, and in the church, the school, the public buildings of city and state, offer themselves and their wide beneficence to all humanity.”

Newark Normal School AudThose who had charge of the building of the Ridge School, and of the State Normal School, Newark, N. J., evidently agreed with Mr. Cramm as to the influence of good architecture, and secured architects who could produce it. The initial illustration shows the inviting entrance to the Ridge School. How rhythmic it is! Three stories high, the features of each are in a triple group: steps, columns, arches; tablet, windows, transoms; lunnettes, ornaments, crown. Then, reading horizontally; the features are in threes again: three entrance arches, three windows, three groups of ornament. How refined it all is! “Nothing too much” as the Greeks used to say.

The other shows the stage in the Auditorium of the State Normal School, Newark, N. J. Again notice the rhythmic sub-divisions into thirds both ways. Notice also that all the prominent lines are vertical and horizontal. The result is a design refined and rich yet unobtrusive, as the frame for a stage should be. Guilbert & Betelle, of Newark, N. J., were the architects to whom our thanks and congratulations are due for adding to the beauty of the world.

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Montrose School Gets Patched

September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · Architecture, Articles

Marcia Worth of Patch, a local community portal, has written a nice piece on Montrose School in South Orange, New Jersey.

“The Montrose school yard boasts what I consider to be the most beautiful birch tree in town. It’s also a fine tree for climbing, according to my neighbor, who indicated a branch far from the ground. There, she recalled, pointing at a scratch I could barely see, were her sons’ initials, carved into the tree one day at recess.”

Montrose is a rather unique design for the town and a sentimental favorite of mine.

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