HELP ENSURE THE RESTORATION OF:
         SKINNER ORGAN OPUS 637
AN HISTORIC PIPE ORGAN LOCATED AT COLUMBIA HIGH SCHOOL, MAPLEWOOD NJ
The CHS Organ Fund is applying for a grant to restore Columbia's Historic Pipe Organ.

We need your support to realize this grant.
 
    OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORIC CHS BUILDING:
NOTHING You'd think maybe that Columbia High School ended up with an organ by one of the greatest builders of the time purely through serendipity. To come to this conclusion you would be also have to believe the school has massive gothic central tower, a steep slate roof, and numerous limestone carvings purely by chance as well. Add to that Guastavino catalan arches over the swimming pool, a Brashear telescope in the observatory, Mueller Mosaic tiles though out the halls, and a E. Howard Clock and Meneely Bell in the tower, and this series of coincidences looks suspiciously purposeful. Researching the history of the Skinner Organ Company was fairly easy; numerous books, periodical articles, newspaper articles, and archival materials were available to draw from. Researching Columbia High School was almost as easy. While thousands of schools were constructed with little more than local notice, the opening of Columbia High School warranted long articles in The Architect, Architecture, Architectural Record, American School and University, The Brick Builder, Pencil Points, and The American School Board Journal. Additionally there are numerous books, newspaper articles, and archival materials available on Columbia High School, and architect, James Oscar Betelle.

In an era where schools were opening everyday, to achieve this level of national attention for a single local public school was very unusual. James O. Betelle, Columbia High School architect and principal of the firm Guilbert & Betelle, was a guiding force in the Collegiate Gothic movement of school architecture. Betelle was declared in the pages of Fortune Story magazine “America’s foremost designer of schools” Time Magazine, in a 1931 biography, stated that Betelle “designed and supervised the erection of “$100,000,000 worth of U. S. educational structures, an all-time world record”. Fortune Story concluded their profile with, “Betelle’s tremendous business is far overshadowed by his work, which is lasting, far-reaching in its influence on America of to-day and to-morrow.” Betelle was no strangers to good publicity and media attention. Before Columbia High School, Betelle was hired by Pierre DuPont to build over a hundred rural schools in Delaware. At the time, nearly every school in Delaware was considered inadequate. In a time of separate but equal, DuPont funded the construction of all new “negro schools” to Betelle designs, in hopes of shaming white residents to construct new schools with tax payer funding. Mostly wooden one room school houses with no plumbing or electricity, few Betelle schools in Delaware survive. A few that do are on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The typically modest Betelle described Columbia High School to the Newark Evening News as “the finest high school building in the country”. Betelle also designed the eight elementary schools and a junior high as part of a 1920’s school building program for the two growing suburbs of South Orange and Maplewood. Betelle wrote in American School and University, “With the erection of the new Columbia High School, which is located in the geographical and population center of the two communities, the building program reached its highest expression, and there are few schools in the country of its size that contain a greater number of such fine educational facilities.” The 1929 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica featured Columbia in an article on school architecture… for Betelle had literally defined what a high school should be.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
ABOUT SKINNER ORGANS `
ABOUT THE CHS SKINNER
ABOUT CHS
THE ORGAN AND THE COMMUNITY
What you can do!
What you can do!