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.
Last week I headed down to Newark to learn more about James Betelle’s tragically short-lived partner, Ernest F. Guilbert. I scored quickly by finding Guilbert’s obituary at the library, which painted a pretty good portrait of his life and career. With that done, I was off to chase down a number of schools I hadn’t had a chance to visit before. Most of them would be primarily Guilbert’s work, from around the time he first joined up with Betelle.
My first stop was Weequahic High School, built in 1932. It’s a monolithic Art Deco design very much along the lines of the School of Fine and Industrial Arts and the Girls Vocational School, also built about the same time. It also has the dubious distinction of being the last complete school the firm built (as far as I know).
The only private residence Guilbert & Betelle designed (that I know of) was the Franklin Murphy House in Newark, New Jersey. Franklin Murphy had quite a life; born in 1846, he fought in the Civil War as a teenager, seeing action at Gettysburg. He went on to found the Murphy Varnish Company in Newark, and later became the 31st Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1901-1904. In retirement he was very active in Newark politics and civic movements, including a stint as Essex County Parks Commissioner. He died in 1920 at 74.