South Dakota Architects – Becklin, Benson, and Bentzinger

This post is the second in a series on architects (and some builders) who were residents of South Dakota in order to dig a bit into their lives and work.  Some made a bigger impact and/or left a better historical record than others, but we miss something if we only study the biggest names.  There are a handful that were only mentioned once and I can’t find anything else about them – maybe I’ll include them in a list at the end…  I’ll do my best to restrict these profiles to architects who are now deceased.  If any readers have additional information or corrections, please leave a note in the comments!

Hans Becklin

Hans Becklin was a stone/brick mason in Vermillion who worked on the foundation of the E.H. Willey House and the First Baptist Church there.  Becklin was born in about 1846/1848 in Sweden and emigrated to the U.S. in about 1868.  In the 1880 census, he was recorded as a farmer living with his mother Lisa in rural Clay County (T94N, R51W).  He married in about 1885.  He was recorded as a brick mason in the census lists for 1900 and 1910.


E.H. Willey House, Vermillion, Clay County, South Dakota


  • E.H. Willey House, National Register of Historic Places nomination form, #82003922.
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Clay County (T94N, R51W), Dakota Territory, Enum. Dist. 9 (June 15-16, 1880), 14.
  • —–. Vermillion, Clay County, South Dakota, E.D. 99 (June 7, 1900), 9.
  • —–. Vermillion, Clay County, South Dakota, E.D. 118 (April 23, 1910), 10A.

Arthur Lee Benson (Parker)

Arthur Lee “Art” Benson was a carpenter in Parker (Turner County), South Dakota.  Benson was born in Dakota Territory in 1883 and lived in Hurley with his parents and then in Parker with his wife and family.  His father Charles Benson had also been a carpenter.  Art later moved east to Beresford (Union County) and died in 1982.  He was listed as a laborer in the 1900 and 1910 census, and as a carpenter in the censuses from 1920, 1930, and 1940.

In 1913, Benson built a 2-story residence for Mrs. Josepha Maier, and he built a house and barn for a farm near Canistota.  In 1931, he worked on a storefront remodel and building an interior stair for the J & V Cafe in Parker.


  • The Construction News, v.36, (August 16, 1913), 33.
  • The Construction News, v.36, (August 23, 1913), 36.
  • Find-a-Grave website profile for Arthur Lee “Art” Benson.
  • The New Era (Parker SD), January 8, 1931.
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Hurley, Turner County, South Dakota, E.D. 325 (June 20, 1900), 8.
  • —–, Parker, Turner County, South Dakota, E.D. 411 (April 21, 1910), 13A.
  • —–, Parker, Turner County, South Dakota, E.D. 237 (January 2, 1920), 1B.
  • —–, Parker, Turner County, South Dakota, E.D. 21 (April 21, 1930), 6A.
  • —–, Beresford, Union County, South Dakota, E.D. 64-4 (April 10, 1940), 5B.

William E. Bentzinger

William Edward Bentzinger was born in Danville, Iowa in 1916.  He attended Iowa State University in Ames, earning a B.S. in Architectural Engineering in 1937.  Through the 1950s and 60s, he was involved with the Sioux Falls City Planning Commission and the South Dakota chapter of American Institute of Architects.  Bentzinger died in 1994 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

In 1945, he joined Harold Spitznagel’s architectural firm (now TSP) in Sioux Falls.  In January 1946, he filed a patent for a wall clock design.  As part of the firm TSP in the 1950s and 60s, he worked on the Edison Junior High School, the Civic Arena, the National Bank of South Dakota, and the Earth Resources Observatory, as well as Augustana College’s Mikkelsen Library, Gilbert Science Center, Morrison Commons, and dormitories.  In 1956, he designed Church of St. Mary, Parochial School, and Gymnasium in Sioux Falls.

StMarysChurchSchool_SF_20150224 (4)

St. Mary’s Church, Sioux Falls, photograph by author.

In 1957, he designed Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, south of Augustana University (although now there have been several additions).  TSP’s website described the church as:

…a tan brick rectangle with a narrow bell tower. Seating for 1,020 including nave, chapel, and narthex. Chancel wall with oil mural of Christ and the Apostles. Exterior chapel wall covered with mosaic tile cross and heart by ceramist Carol Janeway. Soaring oil mural of the Ascension on white brick chancel wall by Robert Aldern (Augie). Won a Merit Award 1960 from the National Council of Churches of Christ.

In 1965, Bentzinger went to Norway to research a plan for the Chapel in the Hills, outside of Rapid City, for the radio program Lutheran Vespers.  The chapel is a replica of the Borglund stavkirke.


Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City, Photograph from National Register of Historic Places file at the SD State Historic Preservation Office.

Working at TSP wasn’t all work… To temporarily convert the office into a gas station for Spitznagel’s return from a trip to Europe, “architect Bill Bentzinger borrowed a pickup truck with tires and tire display racks from his brother-in-law to complete the picture” –  Gas Station Prank, TSP website.


  • AIA Directories: 1956, 1962, 1970.
  • Bess Balchen, “Ingredients for a Practice with Pleasure,” AIA Journal 53(1) (January 1970), 35-42.
  • Daily Plainsman (Huron SD), December 3, 1967
  • Design for a wall clock,” USD147361 S, August 26, 1947,
  • Harold Spitznagel,” list of work, TSP website.
  • Lead Daily Call (SD), March 20, 1979.
  • Scandinavian Review 57-58 (1969), 430 on googlebooks Snippet view.

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