Category Archives: Biographical

August Sieder, Jr.

I don’t actively research Betelle much anymore, but I do have automatic searches in place at a number of websites. eBay is the busiest, where occasional magazines and postcards pop up. I mostly ignore those, as it’s generally material I already have. But sometimes a unique item appears. This morning, I saw this:


It’s the envelope only, so not of specific interest. But who was Mr. August Sieder, Jr. of South Orange New Jersey? First, let’s see his house:

A pretty typical smaller suburban house. But what was Sieder’s occupation that Guilbert & Betelle would be writing him? A quick trip to tells us:

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An architect, of course. So a general Google search didn’t reveal much besides being listed with the AIA. The next stop is the New York Times obituaries where we get a bit more info. It would appear he spent most of his career with G&B. Attributing him to having designed the Betelle structures mentioned is probably a bit loose with the facts—a team of people would have designed those structures—but it does give us one more concrete link to the people who worked with Betelle.



“A Simple But Impressive Ceremony”

James Betelle’s death is one of the more curious aspects of his story.  He died in Italy, ending up in an unmarked pauper’s grave, while in Delaware, a stone with his name on it sits quietly in an old cemetery. How did he come to be buried (as it were), in two places?

I’ve already known from his will he desired  to be buried at his family plot in Wilmington, the stone being evidence of that. And yet, upon his death in Florence on June 3rd, 1954, he was buried there, and not returned to the U.S. per his request. Why?

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His Earthly Labors

The Newark Sunday Call of December 3, 1916, offered this brief obituary for Ernest F. Guilbert, who died two days earlier:

Few men in the last generation have left a more enduring mark upon this community than one who came here less than a decade ago, and who now has ceased his earthly labors. We refer to Ernest F. Guilbert, appointed supervising architect of Newark’s public schools in 1908. He gave to Newark school buildings a maximum of attractiveness and usefulness for a minimum of cost. He made few errors from the strictly utilitarian or structural sides, and none from the artistic and aesthetic angles. The Newark State Normal School, Central and South Side High Schools, Cleveland and other elementary schools are among the monuments Mr. Guibert has left behind him. His was a rare spirit trammeled in a frail body. He gave to Newark far more than he received from it, although this fact will only become generally appreciate now that he is gone. He was an educator quite as truly as those who deal with textbooks and toil in classrooms; he made the old grim factory-like school construction a dead letter; the old order vanished upon his arrival. So potent have been his teaching that Newark will never again be content with the architectural monstrosities of the past with which it is still scarred; and he did it all in little more than half a dozen years.


Doings in the Hive of the Three Busy B’s

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.


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.


The Point of Pencils

James O. Betelle

The output of new works from Guilbert & Betelle plummeted in the 1930s, as the Depression caused a suspension of school infrastructure programs. The firm layed off most of the staff, which numbered over 200 just a few years earlier.

Reduced to minor, low profile jobs—building service upgrades, interior renovations—James Betelle had little need to personally involve himself with the daily operation of his firm. He went to the office infrequently, spending his time at home or traveling with his wife, having recently married in 1932. By the mid 30s, the architects in the office rarely saw the man.

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