Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

Albert A. Bennett (1825-1890)

Albert A. Bennett was born in Schoharie, New York, on July 26, 1825. At sixteen he apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner under his brother William in Stamford, Connecticut. After working in the trades for two years, he returned home to study architecture under his brother-in-law, Orson Phelps. In 1846 Bennett moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he was involved in building the Alabama State Capitol. He came to San Francisco in 1849 to practice architecture and building. Within a year he relocated to Sacramento.

From 1850 to 1876 Bennett resided in Sacramento, where he built the Odd Fellows's Temple, the Golden Eagle Hotel, and the Arcade County Hospital. He served as State Architect from 1876 to 1883, working on the State Capitol Building and prison projects at San Quentin and Folsom. Returning to private practive in San Francisco in 1883, Bennett and his partner, John M. Curtis, prepared plans for courthouses in Santa Rosa and Eureka.

Bennett designed many other early California buildings, including the Mechanic's Art College at Berkeley and courthouses in Yolo, Stanislaus, Merced, Tulare, Kern and Fresno counties. Bennett's Fresno County Courthouse (1874), albeit much expanded and altered over the ensuring century, remained in use until 1966, when it was torn down despite vigorous public outcry. His Merced County Courthouse stands to this day in the city of Merced, and is open to the general public as a regional history museum.

While en route to Europe in 1890, Bennett became ill in New York and retreated to the Catskill Mountains to recuperate. After his health improved, Bennett started to return to California but died in Philadelphia in December 1890. Written by John Edward Powell

©1998 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.