Our community’s historic building needs your help. We’re actively seeking financial assistance to save and restore our building. Bennett Valley is fortunate to have our historic hall built in 1873. It was designated by Sonoma County as a historical landmark in 1979 and is a hidden icon that now needs many long-overdue repairs and improvements.

We’re also seeking to restore the hall’s historic architecture.

The Guild Restoration committee has identified six phases of specific projects that will restore and improve the Bennett Valley Hall and its one-acre site. The goal is to raise about $900,000 during the next decade. The entire project breakdown can be found by scrolling down on this page.

Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota homesteader and farmer, started the Grange movement in 1867 during an economic depression. It led to a national organization that encourages families to band together to promote agriculture and the economic and political well-being of their community. On April 26, 1873 a group of Bennett Valley farmers and ranchers met at the Strawberry Schoolhouse to form our Bennett Valley organization. For the past 145 years the Guild has celebrated its anniversary in June with a picnic, rain or shine.

The Bennett Valley hall was built on an acre of donated land using lumber hauled by oxen from Smiths Mill, west of Occidental, at a price of $292.82. The completed hall was dedicated on December 4, 1873. Today it is the oldest hall in continuous use in this country, having never missed a monthly business meeting. Over the years the Guild has united and improved our community. It sponsored the first electric power lines (1926) and founded the Bennett Valley Home Economics Club (1937), the Bennett Valley 4-H Club (1945), the Bennett Valley Juvenile Grange (1946), and the Bennett Valley Volunteer Fire Department (1948).

Today the Guild, while reorienting its focus with the changes in society, remains a pillar of the Bennett Valley community. Its current mission statement is “Enhancing our environment through community interaction.” It supports modern agricultural projects such as vineyards, organic foods and outreach programs. Membership in the Guild is open to everyone.

The Bennett Valley Hall is used for meetings of numerous community organizations, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 4-H, the Bennett Valley Community Association, the Bennett Valley Emergency Preparedness Group, local water districts, the Bennett Valley Grape Growers association, the Kenwood Yacht Club, Sonoma County Radio Amateurs,  The Bennett Valley Cemetery Association, The Santa Rosa Active 20/30 Club, and as an election polling station. It is vital that the community save and restore this essential and historic building.

The Bennett Valley Guild is recognized as a non-profit organization by the IRS and donations may be tax deductible.

We will recognize all donations of $100 or more on the Guild website. A commemorative display will be built on site recognizing sponsors at Bronze level of $1000.00, Silver level of $10,000 and Gold level of $25,000.

We have already received or have pledges for about $30,000 for this project and have completed several urgent repairs. We hope that you can join your neighbors and our community in our effort to save and restore the historic Bennett Valley Hall. For further information or a tour of the hall, contact Rob Thompson, Chair, Bennett Valley Guild Restoration Committee, 707-310-0363, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Donations by check payable to the Bennett Valley Guild may be sent to Bill Finkelstein, Guild Treasurer, 6584 Birch Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 phone: 707 536 1026 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Guild Restoration Committee: Rob Thompson, Chairman; Bill Allen, Guild President; Bill Finkelstein, Guild Treasurer; Craig Harrison; and Joe Judge.

By Ann Dubell

Bennett Valley Guild Seeks Restoration Funds (Note - the Bennett Valley Guild adopted it's new name in December 2016)

Bennett Valley Guild has a long history in Santa Rosa. It was part of the nationwide Grange movement begun in 1867, following the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant was President when Bennett Valley’s Guild opened in December, 1873. The Guild did not have electricity for fifty years. Its members shared the sorrows of the Great Depression and foreign wars. The Guild building withstood the 1906 Earthquake and subsequent shakers to date. In other words, the Guild has grit.

Certainly many residents have enjoyed a spirit of camaraderie in Bennett Valley Guild’s picnics, barbecues, spaghetti feeds, and holiday parties. Kids are likely to recall cherry spitting contests and the fun of petting 4-H animals. Dancers have twirled to a lot of live music there. In fact, a day before the Guild first opened, Santa Rosa was hit by a rare snowstorm that fell all night and day, but on opening night, an undeterred crowd danced until dawn.

California’s state Guild website describes a Guild as, “a meeting place where new friends are made and old friends are cherished.” Over its long history, Bennett Valley’s Guild has provided its members ties that bond and heal. Weddings and memorial celebrations come to mind. For example, three generations of Bennett Valley’s early settlers, the Jamison family, were married in the Guild. Members have gathered to share a meal and remember deceased dairyman and volunteer firefighter, Al Lafranconi, whose dairy property is now the site of Matanzas Creek Winery.

It may surprise readers to know that all are welcomed to join the Guild. Bennett Valley residency is not a requirement. Neither is a farming background.

Today Bennett Valley Guild hosts a variety of community organization meetings, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 4-H, the Bennett Valley Community Association, the Kenwood Yacht Club, the Bennett Valley Emergency Preparedness Group, local water districts, the Bennett Valley Grape Growers Association, Sonoma County Radio Amateurs, the Bennett Valley Cemetery Association, and the Santa Rosa Active 20/30 Club.

As part of Bennett Valley’s Neighborhood Association Emergency Preparedness program, Bennett Valley Guild is a designated emergency shelter. However, the weary, 140-year old building needs repairs and a vision for its restoration is emerging.

The ambitious project would restore the building’s historic architecture as well as make improvements to suit current activities. The building’s original lumber came from Smith’s Mill, west of Occidental. An ox-driven wagon carried the lumber over a two-day journey. Its driver was paid $12, six months after the delivery. Lumber used for the doors and window trims came from the Korbel Brothers who cleared and milled the timber on their Russian River property.

The Guild has already raised or received pledges for about $30,000. A six-phase renovation calls for rebuilding the exterior decking and stairways, replacing interior and exterior doors, purchasing an emergency propane generator and a larger propane tank. Additionally, exterior rot work and siding repairs are needed. Subsequent phases aim to remodel the interior, rebuild the septic system, and re-roof the building. Finally, niceties like an improved barbecue setup, a kitchen suited to catering needs, a playground and gazebo are in the restoration plan.

Donations by check payable to the Bennett Valley Guild may be sent to Bill Finkelstein, BV Guild Treasurer, 6584 Birch Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Phone: (707) 536-1026.