Mystery Surrounds Fortune of Early Architect W. J. Bennet

Apr 27, 2016

W. J. Bennet moved to Roseburg, Ore., in 1892, and became its first architect. After designing the original Old Soldiers Home and other Roseburg buildings, Bennet moved to Medford in 1895.

His Medford homes and buildings included the original Washington School. By 1896, Bennet had built structures in Sisson and Etna, Calif. He had also relocated to Yreka, where he designed its 1896 courthouse. By 1898 he was living in La Grande, Ore.

On the Southern Oregon History Revised website, Medford historian Ben Truwe has published numerous comments on Bennet from 1890's newspaper articles. Most articles praised Bennet’s work. Truwe commented that he could not find evidence of Bennet’s career or location prior to 1892.

When Bennet died in 1899, reportedly due to a combination of morphine and alcohol, newspapers reported his death as a suicide, and stated that his wife and two children were left destitute. Considering Bennet’s apparently successful career and an inheritance in 1896 that exceeded $60,000, the reports were mysterious.

The Medford Mail Tribune commented that “He was an architect of ability and a good superintendent, but contractors claimed his plans would not ‘work out.’”


Sources: Website: Truwe, Ben. “Who was W. J. Bennet?” Southern Oregon History, Revised.