Who Was Arthur?

Arthur B. Holmes, September 25, 1916

Arthur B. Holmes, September 25, 1916

Arthur B. Holmes was my paternal maternal great grandfather. (Does that work? He was my dad’s mom’s dad.) He was born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1888, and grew up there as well. He went to Cornell, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1911. He went on to become a successful architect, doing a lot of work also in Montclair, New Jersey, among other places.

From early on, he was an avid and talented photographer as well. I have many photos and albums that he took during the years he courted my great grandmother, whom he married in August of 1916, soon before the above photograph was taken.

Unfortunately, soon after my grandmother was born in 1918, Arthur’s wife, my great grandmother, died in the 1918 Flu Epidemic. Arthur eventually carried on, remarrying and having another daughter, who is my only living relative of that generation.

He was an architect his whole career. He worked for various firms, and then became partner in his own firm. He was a member of the New Jersey Society of Architects and the American Institute of Architects, and even traveled to Puerto Rico to do some work down there. He also spent some time working and living in Arlington, Virginia.

At the very end of 1945, as a civilian he joined the American military in Berlin, Germany, helping to rebuild the area, post-war. His observations are those of an educated and professional man, though he apparently knew how to occasionally let loose. By the time of his travels, he was divorced from his second wife. He was quite devoted to my grandmother, his daughter, writing her long, newsy letters on a regular basis.

The first letter that I will share tells the tale of his getting over to Germany. It is a fascinating look into the informality of it all, and his humor shows through from the start. Letters will continue on a semi-regular basis. He aimed to write them weekly, but some gaps are shorter, while others are longer.

Arthur was tall, intelligent, and amusing. I have evidence that he and his buddies went on adventures and documented them in “official” ways… I wish I had known him in person, but as he died in 1968 and I wasn’t born until 1973, alas, that was not to be. But I’ve gotten to know him much better through his letters, and, starting on January 1, 2016, I will share many of those with you all.