A closer look at Benton
The Wildcats welcome Benton to their home field this week with kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday. Benton is home to the Panthers. This week, we take a closer look at the team’s hometown.
Benton, Saline County
One of the most colorful characters in American history — Thomas Hart Benton — is responsible for the thriving central Arkansas community’s name, according to Arkansas.com. Located halfway between Little Rock and Hot Springs along I-30, Benton makes a perfect home base for those wanting to visit both communities while partaking of Benton’s charms as well.
The discovery of bauxite ore, the source ore for aluminum, is the reason this area of Saline County was settled. This is the only place in the United States where it has been feasible to commercially mine the aluminum. The industry took hold in this area in 1899 with top output coming during World War II when demand increased because German subs were sinking foreign ore ships. The mining thrived for many, many years before the high grade, low silica bauxite ore gave out.
The picturesque Benton town square is the focal point of the community. Don’t miss the oddity of the Gann Museum of Saline County, housed in the only known structure in the world constructed of bauxite. In addition to the history of the county, the museum boasts an impressive collection of Niloak Pottery, made in the region from 1909 to 1946. The unique method of “swirling” colors, the pottery’s distinctive trademark, died with creator Charles Hyten, making the pieces highly sought after by collectors. The Royal Theatre, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hosts live theatrical productions.
One of the town’s main thoroughfares, Military Road, dates to the 1830s. This route parallels the Old Southwest Trail used by frontier travelers on their way West. The Southwest Trail is part of the Arkansas Heritage Trails System.
Both Benton and nearby Bryant provide antique seekers ample opportunity to search for treasures with several antique malls on both sides of the interstate. The Saline River has excellent fishing, scenery and backcountry floating for the outdoors enthusiast. Check it out:
• Hangtime Trampoline Park is an indoor trampoline park great for groups and parties. Go to hangtimebenton.com for information.
• Salty Harbor Mini Golf & Fun Park is a miniature golf park and family fun center. Check out saltyharbor.com for more information.
• Shoppach House Historic Park is the oldest standing structure in town, built in 1852; also on the grounds are Pilgrims Rest Church which has its origins in the 1860s-1880s, the DeTonti Post Office, built in 1940, which serves as an excellent example of a small rural post office in mid-20th century Arkansas; and the covered well. Legend has it the Shoppach house is haunted.
• The Splash Pad At Tyndall Park features 70 gallons of water per minute pumping through the various water spouts, filling-and-dumping buckets and a misting arc. Covered picnic tables are located inside the splash pad area.
• Glitz & Garland Shopping will be held Nov. 3-4 this year. The event features specialty shopping in one location. Vendors from around the region offer holiday items, clothing, jewelry, home décor, gourmet food, children’s items, accessories and much more. Check bentonchamber.com for more information.