Benton has history easily discovered .

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BENTON -- For motorists zooming alongside Interstate 30's 6-mile stretch via Benton, the panorama zips by in a blur of roadside commerce, together with a potpourri of manufacturers that could possibly be present in Anytown USA.

There are umpteen possibilities to cease for meals, lodging, gasoline, buying and different journey wants and wishes. Colourful billboards and smaller indicators tout providers as numerous as auto sellers, church buildings, hardware outlets, shoe shops and personal-injury legal professionals. Enterprise seems to be thriving on the I-30 hall operating via the Saline County seat.

Amid the visitors's clamor, little seen out the window provides many hints of Benton's lengthy and notable historical past. That requires a detour -- a worthwhile one -- only a brief hop off I-30's Exit 117. A nationwide historic district of 53 buildings sits lower than a mile south of the interstate. It's the downtown coronary heart of a group established in 1833, three years earlier than Arkansas turned the 25th U.S. state.

A great start line for a strolling tour of the Benton Business Historic District is Saline County Courthouse, inbuilt 1902. The oldest construction within the historic district, the two-story constructing with its dominating nook clock tower was designed in Romanesque Revival type by outstanding Little Rock architect Charles L. Thompson for the good-looking sum of $31,000.

The courthouse's notable Romanesque Revival options embrace rounded arches above window and door openings. A foyer inside shows a vivid mural by Julius Woeltz titled Bauxite Mining.

Certainly one of 19 surviving works initially in U.S. publish workplaces round Arkansas, it was a part of a federal New Deal program in the course of the Nice Melancholy of the 1930s. A half-dozen brawny males are proven laboring to mine regionally ample bauxite, the ore for aluminum.

A useful on-line information to the district might be printed out prematurely at Its contents are based mostly on a tour carried out a number of years in the past by Rachel Silva as a part of the Walks By means of Historical past challenge of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Strolling your complete 53-building route from the courthouse takes in blocks of Major, South, East, Sevier and Market streets. Till the early 1920s, that stroll might be a problem to shined footwear and lengthy skirts. Earlier than then, the streets have been gravel and filth, though downtown sidewalks have been paved. Concrete pedestrian crossings went from nook to nook at intersecting streets.

Different buildings of specific notice within the district embrace the Royal Theatre and the Worldwide Order of Odd Fellows Constructing

The Royal Theatre, 111 S. Market St., was opened in 1920 over the past decade of the silent-movie period. In 1949, it received a recent marquee and "Royal" signal transferred from the dismantled Royal Theatre in Little Rock. Jerry Van Dyke purchased the property in 1996 and turned it over to a community-theater firm, now the Royal Gamers.

Unbiased Order of Odd Fellows Constructing, 123 Market St., was inbuilt 1930. Not utilized by the lodge, its facade bears intriguing symbols. Three hyperlinks of a sequence and the letters "F.L.T." under it stand for the fraternity of friendship, love and fact. The engraving of an eyeball symbolizes the all-seeing eye of the Almighty.

A welcome 21st-century intruder into the business historic district is an enormous and colourful mural on the wall of the Bell Constructing, 102 W. South St. Created in 2014 by artists Dianne Roberts and Mark Davey, it portrays scenes from Benton's historical past, going way back to the American Indians who initially lived round right here.

And simply past the district's boundary, two buildings supply glimpses of 19th-century Benton. Gann Museum, 218 S. Market St., is seemingly the one construction anyplace on the earth made out of bauxite. Accomplished in 1893, the constructing was constructed as their physician's residence by sufferers who couldn't afford to pay him.

Stated to be the oldest surviving brick construction in Saline County, the Shoppach Home at 508 N. Fundamental St. was constructed by a German immigrant in 1852. It housed 5 generations of the Shoppach household earlier than ultimately turning into property of the Saline County Artwork League. It makes a long-long-ago last cease earlier than returning to the I-30 race monitor.

For info, contact Benton Space Chamber of Commerce, 607 N. Market St., Benton. Go to or name (501) 860-7002.

Photograph by Particular to the Democrat-Gazette/MARCIA SCHNEDLER
Saline County Courthouse, courting to 1902, stands tall in Benton Business Historic District.

Type on 11/12/2019