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