Tag Archives: Guilbert

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.


The Home of Mr. Ernest F. Guilbert

Guilbert Residence circa 1912
In my entry regarding the Franklin Murphy house, I ruminated that it was the only known residential structure designed by Guilbert & Betelle. As it turns out, I was wrong.

I’ve recently had the privilege of corresponding with members of the Guilbert family, who have shown a keen interest in my research. Given the circumstances of Ernest’s early death, they didn’t really know much about him, so I was happy to share what little I had discovered.

Fortunately, discovery is a two-way street: the Guilberts had a number of items dating back to Ernest’s day, and were gracious enough to send them to me for study.

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Hallowed Ground

Ernest Guilbert GraveI finally visited Ernest Guilbert’s gravesite. I had made an attempt a while ago, but the office was closed. Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ, is over 150 acres, so I wasn’t about to look the hard way.

I went directly to the office, a charming little Mansard Victorian building near the main gate. The clerk was quickly able to find the record book entry for Guilbert. We discovered that his lot had three plots; his, his wife Anna, and a third, still empty and available to any Guilbert descendant. Guilbert died December 1, 1916, and according to the cemetery records, the cause was “Anemia”, and was buried on the 4th.

The clerk noted that near the lot was a tall monument, which would help locate it. I walked to the area on the map she circled, and spent about ten minutes looking for it. I couldn’t find it. I tromped back and forth where I thought it should be countless times, and was starting to get frustrated. And then I saw it, in a completely different location than I thought it should be, by about 50 feet.

The monument the clerk noted was actually Guilbert’s. It’s a tall stone, and faces the path where it’s clearly visible. A few feet from the monument are two headstones bearing Ernest and Anna’s names (hers with Bunn, as she had remarried.) The inscription reads:

And is he dead,
whose glorious mind
Lifts ours on high?
To live in hearts
we leave behind
Is not to die.

The stanza is from the poem Hallowed Ground by Thomas Campbell, written sometime in the early 1800s. According to the AIA Biography, James Betelle selected the passage. Given the size of the monument and his large, front-page obituary, it’s clear Guilbert was very well regarded–and missed–when he died.

Drawings on the Past

Now this is a fun little thing. By sheer luck I’ve found caricature illustrations of both James Betelle and Ernest Guilbert. I’ve had the Betelle drawing for a while, but just recently acquired the Guilbert, so I can now present them as the symmetrical pair they were destined to be.

James Betelle Caricature, 1916Ye Architect of Ye Great Inn
The illustration of Betelle is from the book A History of Newark and Notable Newarkers, by Thomas Fleming, a noted cartoonist of the day. Written in celebration of Newark’s gala 250th anniversary in 1916, it’s a tongue-in-cheek history of the city, with contemporary figures inserted into historical guise.

Betelle is dressed in puritan garb, standing by his then most celebrated work, the Robert Treat Hotel. He doesn’t seem particularly thrilled in the getup, but the quote does give him respect:
James O. Betelle is the Architect of Robert Treats finest monument – the beautiful Hotel named in his honor. His motto is – “Newark knows how–So does Architect Betelle.”

Ernest F. Guilbert Caricature, c.1914A Leg Up
Guilbert’s drawing (clearly taken from his portrait) is a bit of a mystery. It was part of a folio of dozens of similar caricatures of other notable figures from Essex County (NJ). Sadly it’s neither signed nor dated, but I would place it at about 1914. It doesn’t seem to be Fleming’s work.

Guilbert is shown seated at a roll-top desk at the “Board of Education Construction Dept.”, where he was employed as Newark’s school architect before teaming with Betelle. The casual pose with the leg on the desk is a funny detail; was the artist capturing a trait of Guilbert’s, or simply giving the illustration some visual interest?

Ernest F. Guilbert, Where Are You?

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.

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