Ralph B. Bencker was born in Philadelphia, the son of John and Mary E. (Bowden) Bencker. Following an education in the Philadelphia public schools, he studied at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (1900-1902), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1902-1903 and 1905-1907), and Temple University. By 1902 he had also begun his apprenticeship in the office of Wilson Eyre, followed by terms of employment with Paul A. Davis and Price & McLanahan. Remaining with Price & McLanahan, in 1904 Bencker was sent to Indianapolis to supervise a second office established by the firm in that city. This sojourn in Indianapolis lasted some two years and was repeated in 1912 and 1913.
Following Price's death in 1917, Bencker was made a partner in the firm; and in 1919, the name of the firm was changed to McLanahan & Bencker. However, in 1925 Bencker severed his connection with McLanahan and set out on his own. In 1920s Philadelphia few architects embraced the moderne and deco styles so popular elsewhere; but as he had shown during his tenure with McLanahan & Bencker, Bencker was adept at the application of the moderne to large commercial and institutional structures. He completed the Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, following Price's death, and his later work on the N.W. Ayer Building, the Rittenhouse Plaza, and the Horn & Hardart chain all demonstrated his handling of the new styles. His Pennsylvania State Building for the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 stood out against the colonial reconstructions which surrounded it.
In 1923, McLanahan & Bencker received the Philadelphia Chapter of the AlA medal for the most meritorious work of the year. Bencker was active in the local chapter of the AlA, serving as president. He was also a member of the national AIA, and became a fellow of that organization in 1937. Other memberships included the Union League, the Delaware Yacht Club, and the Rotary Club.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Union League of Philadelphia
- Delaware Yacht Club
- Manufacturers Club
- Rotary Club
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
- Temple University
- T-Square Club Atelier
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