Percy Dwight Bentley was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on
January 30, 1885, the son of a banker. He studied architecture and graduated from Ohio
Wesleyan University in 1907. He did further study at the Armour Institute of Technology
(now Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago. While in Chicago Bentley spent a great
deal of time at the Art Institute of Chicago. Both Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright
maintained offices in close proximity to the Art Institute and Bentley was accustomed to
seeing them on a regular basis. This heightened awareness of them led to his study of
their styles and philosophies.
Bentley returned to La Crosse before completing his
studies and became an apprentice in the office of Wells E. Bennett. He left shortly
thereafter with a residential commission from Edward C. Bartl and opened his own office in
1910. He hired Otto A. Merman as his draftsman, and eventual partner, and they continued
to design primarily Prairie style residences in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Bentley
occasionally partnered with other Prairie architects on his commissions. He had George
Mann Niedecken design the furniture, lighting and carpeting for the Henry A. Salzer house
of La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1912.
The partnership of Bentley and Merman ended with the
death of Merman in 1935, and Bentley left La Crosse for Oregon in 1936.