Benton County officials say future of Bentonville's old post office in doubt

BENTONVILLE -- The future of the old post office on the northeast corner of the downtown square remains in question as Benton County officials refine the concepts for a new courts building.

"If you're going to use that site, it's better to use the whole site and demolish it," County Judge Bob Clinard said of the prospect of building on that site. "Incorporating the old post office into a new, 21st century-structure is about like taking a Model T and attaching it to a BMW."

Old Post Office

The old post office at the intersection of Second and Northeast A streets — at the northeast corner of the downtown square in Bentonville — opened in July 1935, and was built for about $50,000, according to information from contemporary newspaper accounts gathered by the Benton County Historical Preservation Commission.

Source: Staff report

Glenn Jones with the Historical Preservation Commission said he will fight any plan that calls for the demolition of the old post office building.

"Tearing down that old building has got to be the dumbest thing you can do," Jones said.

Jones said he will work to convince officials of the value of preserving the building. Bentonville and Benton County are losing too many historic structures, he said, pointing to several houses in central Bentonville and a number of bridges throughout the county.

"Progress is killing us," Jones said. "We're making lots of money and doing lots of things, and that's all wonderful. But when you lose track of your history, you lose everything."

The building had an important place in the history of the city and county, Jones said.

"It was the United States Post Office, and it was a center of the community. It was also the weather bureau for years. They transmitted weather reports from that building. I will fight them to the end to preserve that post office building," Jones said.

Shirley Sandlin, justice of the peace and a former county assessor, spent time in the old post office when she served as assessor. The old building won't work well with a new courts facility, and Sandlin is resigned to seeing it demolished.

"I think it's probably on its way out," Sandlin said. "It would take a lot of money and effort to fix it up, and it would still not fit cohesively. I can live with that."

County officials and consultants hired to develop a building to house the circuit courts and related offices held the first of three public workshops Thursday night.

The county has been considering a building to house circuit courts and related offices for several years. A study in January 2014 identified three sites. One is on Northeast Second Street in downtown Bentonville, across the street from the county courthouse. The second downtown location uses the site of the old jail and space between the courthouse and the County Administration Building. The location on Southwest 14th Street uses county land near the Road Department and jail.

The consultants presented multiple concepts for each of the three locations Thursday night -- two for the 14th Street location and six for the downtown locations. They will work to reduce that to four plans to be discussed at the second workshop. James Damron with Perkowitz and Ruth Architects said consultants will take feedback from Thursday's workshop and refine the concepts that remain. The Second Street property will be shown in one concept with a new courts building adjacent to the old post office and a second concept with the old post office removed and the new courts building taking up the entire site.

The second workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 4 in the County Administration Building.

Circuit Judge Doug Schrantz said the consultants have given the county a lot of information and options and what remains is to work toward the best possible solution.

"I think the next meeting is going to be key," Schrantz said.

NW News on 09/17/2016