California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
ARTHUR BURNETT BENTON — The distinctive architecture of Southern California has been the wonder and admiration of the world and has been extended with modifications to many localities where it inevitably loses through lack of appropriate setting and climatic conditions. While this architecture is in a sense an almost native product, it has remained for the genius of such notable men as Arthur Burnett Benton to develop it as the highest form of architectural expression and provide the flexible treatment that adapts it to a wide range of structural conditions.
Undoubtedly the greatest living authority on "the Mission style" is Mr. Benton, who for thirty years has practiced architecture and has been an indefatigable student of old Mission art in Southern California. The work of Mr. Benton has been characterized by a uniformity of beauty and an admirable adaption of line, structural symmetry, interior comfort, so that every element in the building harmonizes with climate and the purpose of his buildings. The work he has done during the past thirty years is exemplified m Los Angeles and all the leading cities and communities around, not only in private dwellings but in great public buildings. Mr. Benton has studied in every detail the architecture of the old California Missions, and has been the consulting architect in nearly every occasion where restoration work has been done on these Mission buildings. His work is well known throughout California. He has for twenty-three years been architect for the famous Mission Inn of Riverside, all of which excepting the Spanish Wing and the new kitchen has been designed by him and built under his supervision. He is at this date engaged in preparing drawings for the "Giralda" tower, which is to be a replica of the famous tower of Seville in Spain and will add most notably to the architecture of America.
Mr. Benton was born at Peoria, Illinois, April 17, 1858. His father, Ira Eddy Benton, was born in Chardon, Ohio, in 1829, and lived to the advanced age of ninety, passing away in 1919. He was an apothecary in Illinois, and the last twenty years of his life were spent in Long Beach, California. He was a descendant of Andrew Benton, who came from England in 1630 and was one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut. The mother of the Los Angeles architect was Caroline Augusta Chandler, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1831 and died in 1907. She was a descendant of William and Anna Chandler, of Roxbury, Massachusetts, representing a family that came from England in 1639.
Arthur B. Benton graduated from the Peoria High School in 1877. He was engaged in farming in Morris County, Kansas during 1879-1888, and was a draftsman in the chief engineer's office, architectural department of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad during 1888-90. While there he attended the School of Art and Design at Topeka. During 1890-91 he held a similar position in the chief engineer's office of the Union Pacific at Omaha. Mr. Benton removed to California in 1891, establishing his home in Los Angeles.
In Morris County, Kansas, May 17, 1883, he married Phillipina Harriet Schilling Von Constat. She was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, April 24, 1849, daughter of James Ernest Carl and Louisa (Morgan) Schilling Von Constat. Her parents were natives of England, but her grandfather, George Frederick Schilling Von Constat, was a native; of Carlsruhe, Baden, was a young officer of engineers in Germany and served as aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great. He came to America immediately after the Revolutionary war, with letters of introduction to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, then Governor of Pennsylvania. Subsequently he left America and removed to London, England, where his son James was born. James and Louisa Schilling Von Constat removed to Virginia in 1849. Mr. and Mrs. Benton have one daughter. Miss Edith Mary Benton, born in Morris County, Kansas, in 1884. She is a prominent worker in the Girls Friendly Society of Los Angeles, captain of the Girl Scouts of that city, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Some of the varied interests as well as professional affiliations of Mr. Benton are represented in his membership in many learned and technical societies. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a member of its committee of conservation of historic land-marks; is past president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Institute: is past president of the Society of Engineers and Architects of Southern California; is past president of the Academy of Science of Southern California; is past governor of the California Society of Colonial wars; a member of the California Society of Sons of the Revolution, is a member of the Board of Governors of the Los Angeles County Museum, and belongs to the Jonathan, Union League and Old Colony Clubs of Los Angeles. He is a member and formerly vestryman of St. Paul's Pro Cathedral of Los Angeles. He is secretary and consulting architect of the Land Marks Club of Southern California. To this organization is due the preservation of San Juan Capistrano, San Fernando and Palo Missions, while it has also given substantial aid to the San Diego and San Luis Rey Missions. Mr. Benton is now a professional advisor in the conservation work being done on the San Luis Obispo Mission, the San Juan Capistrano Mission, and the Mission San Diego de Alcala. Practically from the beginning of his California residence the early history and architecture of the state made a strong appeal to him, and most of his literary expression has found its themes in such subjects. He is author of "The Mission Inn Legend of Riverside and Capistrano." of "The Princess Phillipina," the "Mexican Romance of the Crusaders" and is author of a historical novel of early California known as "The Mission Builders." His writings have an individual .style and charm that enhance their value as solid historical productions.
Besides the Mission Inn Mr. Benton was employed as the architect for the Christian Science Church, the Y. M. C. A. Building, the Water Company's offices, the Fairmont Park music pavilion, the Porter mansion, the parish hall of All Saints Church in Riverside. He was architect for the Arrowhead Hot Springs Hotel, and the New Arlington Hotel in Santa Barbara, the Woman's Club Building and the Unity Church in Redlands, All Saints Church in Covina. Some of his biggest work has naturally been in Los Angeles, where he was architect of the Y. W. C. A. and the Y. M. C. A. buildings, the latter being now the Union League Club Building: the Friday Morning Club Building, the first large public building of pronounced Mission type, the dormitory of the Young Woman's Building built by Senator W. A. Clark in memory of his mother: and he is architect for John Steven McGroarty's [?] Mission Play House at San Gabriel, the permanent home of the Mission Play. This is to be an historical museum and a great monument to California Colonial architecture as well as a play house. The main facade and porch is a replica of the Franciscan Mission of San Antonio de Padua, founded by Frey Serra, and one of the most beautiful of ancient Missions. For the present purpose this replica is twice the size of the original. The work is largely of adobe, performed by Mexican and Indian workmen. A great number of other residences, churches and public buildings in California have been constructed from the plans and under the direction of Mr. Benton. For twenty-three years he has been engaged in the development of the ambitious plans and ideals of Frank A. Miller in the creation of the Mission Inn and the improvement of Mount Rubidoux, and is now engaged on the beautiful home at Arch Beach, named for Mrs. Miller, “Mariona."
Mr. Benton is a republican. As a young' man on a Kansas ranch he took considerable interest in local politics, serving as chairman of his precinct Central Committee, as clerk of the School Board, and was nominated for clerk of the Morris County Superior Court, but about that time left home to begin his architectural career.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011