Tag Archives: Newark

$100 Million For Newark Schools

From the Wall Street Journal:

Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder and chief executive of Facebook Inc., plans to announce a donation of up to $100 million to the Newark schools this week, in a bold bid to improve one of the country’s worst performing public school systems.

Potentially to be matched by funds raised by Mayor Cory Booker. I’d be interested to see if any of the funds will go to upkeep, renovation and/or restoration of Newark’s classic Guilbert & Betelle schools.

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.


Something Beautiful

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.


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.

Before and McAfter

United States Savings Bankmcdonalds-newarkGuilbert & Betelle designed a number of banks for Newark in the early 1920s. They are frustratingly difficult to track down, because few reveal their addresses, or are probably drastically altered in appearance.

Well this one, the United States Savings Bank on Broad Street, still exists. I’ve unknowingly walked past it dozens of times, because it was now a generic, yucky McDonalds*. In fact, it’s just around the corner from Betelle’s old office in the Chamber of Commerce Building on Branford Place. I would never have given it a second glance.

I was able to identify the building thanks to a volume of The American Architect magazine from 1924, which contains a number of excellent spreads on Betelle banks (still working on ID’ing those…). A quick search revealed the address of the USSB, which apparently moved out in 1982—a pretty good run, really.

The original lot was long and narrow, but clean lines and a simple pair of Corinthian columns gave the building a strong, noble presence. The theatrical sign on the roof was certainly a unique touch for a bank (influenced perhaps by the wealth of nearby theaters), but doesn’t detract from the design.

The transformation from bank to McDonalds is startling—the columns were un-ceremoniously chopped out, leaving anachronistic stumps, and the facade was covered with stone panels. The panels continues to the building next door, stripped of what appeared to be a healthy dollop of the Beaux-Arts style.

The next time I explore Newark, I will definitely need to pay more attention to these anonymous old storefronts…

*The Google street view photo above is misleading; The McDonalds recently underwent a $2 million renovation, and seems to look much nicer now.

Update: New streetview showing the renovation:

Weequahic Walking Tour

If you read my last post, you know that over a weekend in August I visited Guilbert & Betelle’s Weequahic High School and took a tour of Newark’s historic High Street/Lower Broad Street area. Both were illuminating and entertaining.

If you’re interested to learn more about the Weequahic neighborhood, now is your chance. Jeff Bennet of Newarkhistory.com is leading another of his fun and interesting walking tours of this historic area on Sunday, December 14th at 12:15pm. Be sure to visit his site for full details. Hope to see you there!