Benton County Courthouse
The Benton County Courthouse at 106 Southeast A Street in Bentonville (Benton County) is a three-story public building constructed in 1928 and designed in the Neoclassical style by prominent architect Albert Oscar (A. O.) Clarke. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 28, 1988.
The first term of the Benton County court was held in the home of County Judge George P. Wallace in April 1837, and a small log courthouse was built on the north side of the Bentonville square in time to house the spring court session in 1838. This served until 1841, when John and William Walker were hired to build a brick building that survived until Union troops burned it in 1862. A new courthouse was not built until 1872, a three-story Italianate-style building that housed the county jail on the top floor.
By the mid-1920s, Bentonville was booming, and sewer, paving, drainage, and other infrastructure improvements were underway throughout town. Amid this progress, the county court voted to appoint a committee to determine whether to rehabilitate the 1872 building or construct a new courthouse. Architects including A. O. Clarke of Rogers (Benton County) and Frank W. Gibb of Little Rock (Pulaski County) submitted plans, which were on display in the county judge’s office while the committee pondered the courthouse question. The courthouse reported in a special session of the county court on December 1, 1926, that a new building was needed and could be erected for around $200,000. The motion for a new building passed 38–14.
Clark was selected as the architect for the project, and he chose a Neoclassical design for the building. The three-story building constructed of rusticated stone includes an arcade with low arches, keystones, corner pilasters, and rounded head-height windows. “BENTON COUNTY COURTHOUSE” is inscribed in block letters between the top of the pilasters and the cornice. Messenger and Dalton of Pittsburg, Kansas, was selected as contractor for the project. A site east of the town square across from the 1908 Bentonville Confederate Monument was picked for the new building.
The cornerstone was laid on April 11, 1928, in a ceremony led by Benton County’s seventeen Masonic lodges aided by Masons from Oklahoma and Missouri. Construction continued through the fall, with the building consuming twelve train cars full of cut stone, thirty of bricks, forty of crushed stone, twelve of cement, sixteen of sand, and four of steel reinforcements. The Benton County Courthouse was dedicated on November 12, 1928, and featured an oration by Judge W. A. Dickson in which he said, “May I express the hope that truth and justice may prevail, and mercy always sit enthroned. Oh! May these walls never echo to the despairing, anguished wail of the innocent, or the oppressed, nor to the exultant shout of the oppressor.” The building continues to serve the needs of Benton County.
For additional information:
“Benton County to Build Courthouse.” Arkansas Gazette, December 5, 1926, p. 23.
“Benton County Courthouse.” 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/BE0379.nr.pdf (accessed November 6, 2019).
Black, J. Dickson. History of Benton County, 1836–1936. Little Rock, International Graphics Institute, 1975.
“Courthouse Plans Submitted.” Arkansas Gazette, November 27, 1926, p. 2.
“Dedication of Bentonville Courthouse, November 12, 1928.” Benton County Pioneer 12 (April 1967): 28–32.
Edwards, W. R. “Building the Benton County Courthouse.” Benton County Pioneer 13 (October 1968): 76–78.
Harris, Monte. Images of America: Bentonville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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