A closer look at Ben­ton

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion - By Brenda Clark Brenda Clark is the man­ager of the Arkansas Wel­come Cen­ter at El Do­rado at 3315 Junc­tion City High­way. She in­vites ev­ery­one to drop by and see what they of­fer. You can con­tact her at brenda.clark@arkansas.gov.

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.

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