The imposing red brick building features a classical portico entrance with four columns supporting a triangular pediment. In the rendering the school and surrounding roads, sidewalks, and park-like grounds are depicted as a bird’s-eye view. To the left, an American flag waves from a tall flagpole. The spacious lawns are dotted with clusters of shrubs and trees, tinged with the reddish hues of early autumn.
This rendering is signed by artist J. Floyd Newell for “Guilbert & Bertelle Architects” — the firm name hand-lettered lower right. It was common for architectural firms to commission bird’s-eye views of this type either to show clients how the building would look when completed or to present to them after the construction. In this particular view, the artist included children walking the path to the back of the school and several men in suits and top hats are portrayed approaching the main entrance while a chauffeur waits in an automobile. Thus, it is conceivable that the view shows the 1921 opening of the school, which drew 600 visitors to observe classes and attend a ceremony.
Glenville School was built by the renowned and prolific civic architectural firm Guilbert & Betelle of Newark, New Jersey, which was well regarded at the time as a leader in the design of school buildings. The firm designed dozens of New Jersey schoolhouses and several in nearby states (mostly the New York metropolitan area). In an article on the topic of “Modern American School Houses” published in 1914 in the Architectural Record, Rawson W. Haddon praised their work: “Guilbert & Betelle are teaching us how we may learn to look away for a time from a too close dependence upon historical styles and to walk alone for a season into a more nearly American style of Architecture.”
One of the firm’s named partners, James O. Betelle (1879-1954) frequently wrote on the topic of school design for architectural publications. In April 1919, writing in the American School Board Journal, Betelle expressed his general philosophy of architecture: “To be good architecture, the design of the exterior of the building should express the character and purpose for which the interior of the building is used, as ‘truthful expression’ is just as desirable in architecture as it is in all other things in life.” Betelle is the subject of an extensive biographical website, detailing and paying homage to his life and work (see References below).
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Watercolor on paper, mounted on stiff board as issued, typical for works of this period. Formerly matted along the pencil line outer border of the artist; the matted area now with glue residue, minor abrasions and mat toning, can be rematted out when framed.
“Glenville School (Greenwich, Connecticut).” Wikipedia. 3 July 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenville_School_(Greenwich,_Connecticut) (17 August 2012).
National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet: Glenville School. 21 November 2003. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/03001169.pdf (17 August 2012).
Weintraub, Steve. James Betelle, Where Are You? The Search for a Lost Architect. 9 April 2012. http://jamesbetelle.com/ (17 August 2012).
“West Greenwich Civic Center.jpg.” Wikipedia. 17 July 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:West_Greenwich_Civic_Center.jpg (22 August 2012).