Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge
Located in Bauxite (Saline County), the Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge stands as an example of the county’s earliest bridges designed specifically for vehicular use. Although it is no longer accessible by road, it is considered a beloved local landmark by the people of Saline County, much like the Old River Bridge in Benton. The bridge was built in 1919 to connect the communities of Benton (Saline County), Bauxite, and Sardis (Saline County).
Settlements around the Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge reached their peak after the towns of Benton, Bauxite, and Sardis began developing in the early 1900s. In the 1910s, new and improved roads were needed to aid in the transportation of bauxite ore from the nearby strip mines to Alcoa headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1919, the State Highway Department surveyed a 15.32-mile gravel road leading directly from Benton through Bauxite into Sardis, interlocking with the Little Rock-Sheridan Road (now known as Highway 167). The road’s estimated cost was $120,164. The Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge was constructed a quarter mile east of Pine Haven Road in Bauxite as part of the new road in 1919. The bridge itself consists of one fifteen-foot-long concrete truss with decorative fieldstone railings on either side. The bridge and the Benton-Sardis Road remained in use until the 1940s, when the need for aluminum increased so much that the road was ruled inadequate.
By 1948, Highway 183 had been built through Bauxite, connecting with U.S. 70 to the northeast, and Highway 35 and U.S. 67 at Benton to the west. These new roads made transporting bauxite ore much more efficient. Consequently, the Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge and the road it was built on fell out of use.
In the twenty-first century, the bridge is covered by natural debris. It lies just north of Highway 183 on private land formerly owned by Alcoa near the intersection of Reynolds and Sardis roads in Bauxite. The bridge’s fieldstone railings are still visible but have been worn down by time and nature. The bridge is not visible from Highway 183 because of the growth around it, but it can be accessed by foot. The Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2007.
For additional information:
Wilcox, Ralph S. “Old Benton-Sardis Road Bridge.” 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/SA0153.nr.pdf (accessed October 13, 2017).
Cody Lynn Berry
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