International Harvester Servicenter

The International Harvester Servicenter at 1124 Military Road in Benton (Saline County) is a one-story concrete-block building designed by Raymond Loewy for the International Harvester Company as a showroom and repair center. The building was built circa 1945 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 23, 2020.

The International Harvester Company (IHC) was founded in 1902 and brought together some of the most talented engineers of the time. Although the tractor industry was just getting started at the time, the International Harvester Company took an early leadership role in the industry. One of the key players in the designs of these tractors was noted industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Before Loewy’s involvement in the design of tractors, they were designed more for tasks rather than the operator’s experience. Loewy began restyling tractors for IHC in the late 1930s. The Model A, which first appeared in 1939; the Model H; and the Model M were the foundation of the Letter Series line, and all exhibited the smooth styling that Loewy was known for. Loewy’s success up through the 1940s gave him prominence in the world of design, heightened by an October 1949 issue of Time magazine that featured him on the cover.

Loewy’s inclination toward a “reduction to essentials and a respect for function” was also applied to the design for the Servicenter, which combined a showroom, offices, and service area all in one facility. The use of the International Style for the design of the IHC Servicenter was a natural choice for Loewy, as it rejected all kinds of decoration, which reduced to the building to its “essentials.” The style also employed new concepts of form and space. Unlike previous styles, in which a building’s form was often paramount to the design, the International Style made space the key to a building’s design. The building’s design balanced horizontal and vertical planes; in the case of the Servicenter, the horizontally oriented composition of the façade as a whole is balanced by the vertical advertising pylon between the showroom and offices.

Benton had an International Harvester dealer decades before the Servicenter was built. By 1911, the Hamp Williams Hardware Company sold International Harvester products, and continued to do so until at least 1921. It is known that the Servicenter at 1124 Military Road was built after 1944, as it does not appear on the 1944 Benton U.S. Geological Survey topographic map, and it may very well have been built for the Thomas Auto Company in the mid-1940s. After the building was no longer used for the International Harvester Servicenter, it housed a variety of businesses. By 1970, the building housed Rufus Edmondson New & Used Cars (later known as Rufus Edmondson Motor Company), and by the early 1970s, it also housed Honda of Benton, which sold motorcycles. Honda of Benton remained in the building until the late 1980s, although Rufus Edmondson Motor Company was replaced by Royce Auto Sales, Inc., by 1978. Royce Auto Sales, however, had vacated the building by 1981. In 1989, the building housed the Carpet & Tile Outlet of Benton, but the building was once again vacant by 1993. In 1994, Express Rental, a furniture rental store, was occupying the building. By 2021, it was occupied by Best Way Rent-To-Own furniture.

The International Harvester Servicenter rests on a continuous concrete-block foundation and has painted concrete-block walls. The showroom section of the building is topped by a flat roof, and the service section of the building is topped by a shallow shed roof. The windows in the building are a mixture of wood-framed windows, glass block windows, and metal-framed windows.

Changes to the building since its construction have been minor and have been limited to the replacement of the garage doors and some of the showroom doors and windows. In addition, one window opening on the southwest façade was modified to accommodate an entrance into the service area. The setting around the building, although it has undergone many changes over the years, still reflects the commercial strip that Highway 5 was developing into after World War II. Since Highway 5 was the main road between Benton and Little Rock (Pulaski County), it saw the bulk of Benton’s commercial development after World War II.

For additional information:
“International Harvester Servicenter.” 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/SA0351.nr.pdf (accessed March 16, 2021).

Jodard, Paul. Raymond Loewy. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1992.

Klancher, Lee. International Harvester: Photographic History. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1996.

Porter, Glenn. Raymond Loewy: Designs for a Consumer Culture. Wilmington, DE: Hagley Museum and Library, 2002.

Tretiack, Philippe. Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design. New York: Universe Publishing and The Vendome Press, 1999.

Ralph Wilcox
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Last Updated: 03/16/2021