Hiram Hudson Benedict (1901-1984)
Considering that he had no college education and basically learned by the seat of his pants, he was a great talent and his projects were well received.He was…a great salesman. He would sketch upside down in front of clients and that alone knocked their socks off.” - Don Woods
Hiram Hudson ‘Benny’ Benedict reportedly grew up in Riverside, did not attend college, and worked as an architectural draftsman in Los Angeles by 1920. Around 1922, he is known to have worked briefly for architect George Washington Smith in Santa Barbara. By 1935 Benedict had moved to Palm Springs where he worked for Gene Verge as an architectural draftsman, before launching the partnerships of Brewster & Benedict and Finlayson & Benedict. He left Palm Springs for a single-year (1939-1940) stint in Phoenix. Returning to Palm Springs in 1940, Benedict opened an office in the McManus building at 315 North Palm Canyon Drive.
During World War II, Benedict served the US Navy as an architect. In 1946, he returned briefly to Palm Springs and established an office for the Seattle firm of Bain, Overturf, Turner and Associates. After a few years, he returned to Phoenix.
After acquiring a site on Camelback Mountain in the early 1950s, a group of prominent investors (including Hollywood stars John Ireland, Joanne Dru and Charlie Chaplin's son Sydney) hired architect Benedict to design a clubhouse and a prototype casita. Benedict and Ireland developed the clubhouse, five tennis courts and a prototype casita that became John Ireland's Arizona home. The project was known as the Paradise Valley Racquet Club throughout the 1950s and is now named Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.
Benedict reportedly had a string of eight marriages. He married Margaret, his first wife, and divorced her in 1936. Hiram was married to his 3rd wife, Lucile, between 1951-1954. She died in ‘54. Later that year, he married Capi – who also died within the calendar year. In 1955, Mr. Benedict reportedly married and divorced his wife, Evelyn, in the same month. One family member recalls him marrying one of his wives twice.
In 1955 Benedict married Lois Grace, an artist, who returned to Arizona after living in La Jolla. Lois would design landscapes for many of his projects. While little is known about Benedict through the 1960s and ‘70s, his residence was noted as being in Carefree, Arizona in both the 1962 and 1970 AIA directories.
Sedona, Arizona -based architect Don Woods, worked for ‘Benny’, “He gave me my first job in Scottsdale in 1958. Taught me a lot…Taught me how to do mechanically drawn perspectives, and in fact I laid out all of the perspectives for him to draw for at least three or four years including Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island... I went to San Diego for the summer and fall of 1959 to share in the drafting of the plans.”
According to Woods, “Benny was good friends with the developers of Carefree -- Tom Darlington, K.T. Palmer and Les Rhuart… He did the first buildings in the new community... Claire Booth Luce, Loyal Davis (Nancy Reagan’s parents), Henry Sturgis, Eugene Casserole and Howard Ahara were among his early clients in the Scottsdale and Biltmore area…”
Prior to becoming the Sanctuary on Camelback, the land that became Paradise Valley Racquet Club, according to Woods, “…was purchased at an auction by John Gardiner and some investors… included 25 acres... Benedict was then hired in association with Richard Caviness to design the units.” Following this project Benedict and Caviness would continue to work together.
Benedict served filmmaker Antonioni as technical advisor for Zabriskie Point (1970). The home Boulder Reign, which he designed for Carl Hovgaard, was used both as a shooting location as well as a scale model which is famously blown apart at the end of the film. “I believe that the house was later purchased by Rusty Lyon who was a partner in Westcor, the premier shopping center developer in the Phoenix. Rusty's son Scott is one of the partners in Sanctuary on Camelback – which was once called John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch on the Camelback, the same fellow who developed Enchantment, a luxury resort in Sedona, according to architect Don Woods. Woods “…was responsible for the remodeling of the original residence on the property and the first six casitas as well as the major two tennis courts and pool for the owner prior to Gardiner.”
Hiram and Lois lived in Las Vegas in the mid-70s where he was reportedly working on the Dunes casino and at least one residence. Hiram and Lois retired to Nordlan, Washington – where he passed away in November 1984. Lois died in September 1988.
I continue to seek information on Mr. Benedict. Drop me a line HERE with any information you have.
Partial List of Projects
Ahara, Howard Residence
A. Residence (1963)
Benedict Residence (ca. 1976)
Brill, Blanche Residence
Bullock's Demonstration Homes
Casserole, Eugene Residence
Cliffton, Dr. Bacon L. Building
Davies, Marion Beach House
Davis, Loyal Residence (1961)
de Laittre, Karl Residence
Gibbs, Earl Residence
Half Moon Anchorage and Boat-tel (1959)
Harris, Phil and Alice Faye Residence (1952)
Hicks, Alvah F. Residence
Hicks, Milton Residence
Hovgaard Residence (AKA Boulder Reign) (1970)
La Cita Apartments
Luce, Claire Booth Residence
Palm Springs Hotel (Remodel)
Paradise Valley Racquet Club (1955)
Pershing, Frank Residence
Private Residence (1952)
Roosevelt, Elliott (late 1950s)
San Diego Yacht Club (1964)
Simon, Lloyd Residence (ca. 1935)
Sterling Library detailing
Sturgis, Henry Residence
Wilson, H. Dalzell Residence