aka: John F. Shoppach House
aka: Sadie Praytor Home
The Shoppach House, located at 508 North Main Street in Benton (Saline County), is the oldest surviving brick structure in Saline County. During the Civil War, the small brick house was home to Confederate private James H. Shoppach of Company E, First Arkansas Infantry. However, it was used to house occupying Union forces under Lieutenant Henry C. Caldwell in the fall of 1863.
The Shoppach House was built by German immigrant John William Shoppach in 1852. The bricks used to build the house, and its well, were made on site. Shoppach was born in Hessen, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1834, eventually making his way to present-day Saline County, where he built his family homestead in the town of Benton. Shoppach’s wife, Sibby Pelton Shoppach, was born in Illinois and had migrated to Arkansas in 1818. After building his home at Benton in 1852, Shoppach was elected county clerk of Saline County. He maintained his post until his death in 1861, when he was fifty-two years old.
The structure continued to house up to five generations of the Shoppach family until 1959, when the house and grounds were sold to David Demuth. The Saline County Art League organized fairs in which handcrafted items were sold to raise funds for the restoration and maintenance of the house and its historic grounds. In 1962, the Saline County Art League had the Pilgrim Rest Church building moved to the grounds of the Shoppach House. A sign above the church’s entrance says that it was established in 1833. Pilgrim Rest Church had been located just west of Little Rock (Pulaski County), where it had been a beloved landmark. On the Shoppach House grounds, the building was reused as the Saline County Art Center. The Art League used the Shoppach House and its outbuildings to showcase various items of historical value.
On September 18, 1974, ownership of the Shoppach House was transferred to the Saline County Art League, Inc., for the price of ten dollars. However, a restrictive covenant attached to the official warranty deed said that the house and grounds were to be used specifically as “an art center, historic landmark and showplace,” and that the house and outbuildings were to “never be removed or torn down.” Furthermore, the house was to be known officially as the “Sadie Praytor Home.” (Praytor was descendent of John W. Shoppach, the original owner.) On October 10, 1975, the Shoppach House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. By May 1980, renovations on the Shoppach House were complete, and it had been furnished with period-accurate “heirloom” furniture and medical equipment donated by the families of local doctors and other private citizens.
In September 1981, the Shoppach House was opened to the public with the art of Dianne Roberts on display in the Pilgrim Rest Church building on the grounds. Among other items, the house features a large bed, a spinning wheel, a photograph of David O. Dodd, and Confederate currency. The Shoppach House and its grounds became a popular spot to see Civil War reenactors from the David O. Dodd Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Although the house and grounds are hardly used in the twenty-first century, they are taken care of by dedicated citizens.
The Shoppach House itself is in the American Colonial style, with the structure composed of brick-and-mortar walls and wooden window frames. The front features two multi-paned glass windows on each side of its front entrance made up of painted double doors and a small porch. On the house’s right side are two small four-paned windows near the peak of the roof with two larger windows below them that are identical to those on the front. The left side of the house features a brick-and-mortar chimney on the roof where the interior fireplace is located. Four windows mirror those on the right side. In back, there is an L-shaped porch made of painted wood slats nailed to supporting foundation boards. The exterior roof extends to cover the porch and is supported by wooden columns with no ornamentation. The exterior rear doors mirror the front doors, but they have arched glass windows in them. They are protected by a locked set of bars to keep out trespassers. There are also two more windows on the house’s newer addition, which is covered in white slat boards with green doors and window trim. The new addition has three windows facing the street on its right side.
For additional information:
Deane, Ernie. “Saline County League Holds a Christmas Fair.” Arkansas Gazette, December 4, 1962, p. 1B.
Dunnahoo, Pat. “Five Generations in One Home.” Arkansas Gazette, December 6, 1942, p. 3.
“Shoppach House Opened to the Public.” Arkansas Democrat, September 25, 1981. p. 5.
Taylor, Sandra. “Shoppach House.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/SA0026.nr.pdf (accessed August 26, 2020).
Cody Lynn Berry
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
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