Benton Commercial Historic District
The Benton Commercial Historic District consists of fifty-three buildings located in the heart of downtown Benton (Saline County). Its buildings cover a long span of the county’s history from the early 1900s to the 1990s. It contains several properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among its most historic buildings are the Royal Theatre, the Saline County Courthouse, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Building, the Benton Masonic Lodge, the Ashby Building, and the H. J. Gingles Building. The district encompasses 10.79 acres of land and contains Benton’s most used commercial buildings. Only three buildings in the Benton Commercial Historic District were built after 1958. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 2008.
What is now Benton’s Commercial Historic District lies in the center of the original town plat, which dates back to 1836. When the city of Benton was originally laid out, it was done in a traditional grid pattern with a town square at its center, on which the courthouse sits. The present Benton Commercial Historical District surrounds the courthouse on three sides—directly in front on Sevier Street, to the left on Market Street, and on its right side on North Main Street. Four of the fifty-three current buildings in the district were built between 1902 and 1908. The oldest building in the district is the Saline County Courthouse, which was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by Little Rock (Pulaski County) architect Charles L. Thompson and built in 1902. The John L. Hughes building at 111 N. Main Street was constructed by Benton architect W. A. Atkinson and his son Bill in 1908. The two-story Mickie Cash Store Building occupying 102–104 West South Street and the Ashby Building at 106–108 North Market Street were also built in 1908.
Sixteen buildings in the district were built between 1910 and 1917. The former Bank of Benton building at 102 N. Market was built in 1910. The H. J. Gingles Department store building at 145 West South Street dates to 1915 when it housed J. M. Caldwell’s store. It later began housing the Dianne Roberts Art Studio. The Kelley Building at 119 N. Market was built in 1917. Nine buildings in the district were built in the 1920s, the most historic being the Royal Theatre at 111 South Market Street. The Benton Masonic Lodge at 109–113 N. Market is a well-preserved example of Art Deco design. The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated Saline County’s economy. Only three buildings in the historic district were built during that time: 109 W. South Street and 115–117 N. Market Street were built in 1930, and the Post Office at 129 N. Main was built in 1939. Designed by architect Louis A. Simon, the Post Office building later began housing the Salvation Army.
Twelve buildings in the historic district were built after World War II. The building at 113 East Sevier Street was constructed in 1946 as an automobile showroom. The Caldwell Building at 145 W. South Street and the Royal Theatre were remodeled in the 1940s, and new retail spaces were built at 210 and 212 West Sevier Street. Six buildings in the historic district were built during the 1950s, including 221 N. Main Street, which was a Goodyear Service Station. The building at 215 Main Street was built in the 1950s for Otasco. The Newbill Motor Company building was constructed at 104 E. South Street in 1955. After the 1950s, only three buildings in the Benton Commercial Historic District were built. The Thomas Auto Garage at 115 E. Sevier was built in 1960. A small medical clinic at 112 N. Main and a bank at 146 W. South Street were built in the 1990s.
For additional information:
Smith, Sandra Taylor. “Benton Commercial Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/SA0285.nr.pdf (accessed October 13, 2017).
Cody Lynn Berry
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