This morning I went down to the Surrogate Court Building in New York to find information on Marie Betelle. According to her obituary, she died living in NYC, so I was hoping to both find a copy of her will and perhaps see what her building looked like (my first walk around that area revealed no structure where I thought it should be).
The Surrogate Court is a big, imposing cube of Beaux-Arts goodness plunked right down on Chambers Street. I crossed the main entrance, and was dazzled by a beautiful, mosaic-lined barrel-vaulted lobby. It was empty, save for a security desk and a metal detector manned by two guards; one big, one little.
After receiving a visitors pass sticker, I went through the detector. I collected my bag on the other side and headed towards the elevator, when the big guard said loudly, “Sir- come here please.”
As satisfying as it is to find an elusive publication, photograph or news item I had been looking for, even more thrilling is finding material I wasn’t looking for. I had a lot of this recently.
Last week I came into posession a stack of letter between Betelle and Pierre S. duPont regarding the schools he had designed for Delaware (thanks, John!). In one letter, Betelle sent duPont an issue of The Architectural Forum from 1928 that had illustrated one of the schools. Naturally, I had to see it. So I went to the Boston Public Library and sat down with the whole set of 1928 Forums. I found that picture, but along with it a were a mountain of new photographs, plates and articles by Betelle. One standout was a photograph and plans of the Essex Club from 1928.
John emailed me a few days ago with new information he dug up; Marie Betelle’s obituary from the New York Times:
August 30, 1959
Mrs. Marie Ann Louise Betelle, widow of James O. Betelle, an architect, died of a brain hemorrhage early yesterday at University Hospital. She was 52 years old.
Mrs. Betelle lived at 450 East 61st Street. She had a collection of objects d’ art, fine linens, engraved stemware, and religious articles.
There are no known survivors.
So, Mrs. Betelle was 47 when JOB died in 1954, at 75. That made her quite a few years younger than him, on the order of twenty-eight years. It’s good to be an architect!
That address, 450 East 61st Street, is in the area of a collection of hi-rise apartments and small old industrial buildings, right next to the 59th Street Bridge, so it’s not likely her residence is still standing (though I will go by there to make sure).