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One of my very favorite places in Northwest Arkansas is Bentonville Square. It holds many memories tied to farmers’ market Saturdays, Octoberfest First Fridays, Christmas tree lightings and celebrity sightings, and it’s where I got engaged. I love eating at the restaurants, sitting on a fountain bench, shopping, and sipping coffee!
So, what is it about the Bentonville downtown square?
Arkansas received her statehood in 1836, and Benton County was the first recognized county. Named for Senator Thomas Hart Benton from Missouri, a critical leader in establishing the state, Bentonville took on a variant of the county name and immediately became the county seat.
Part of the initial planning for the city included a park at its city center, and the current town square was used initially as a needed watering hole for livestock. However, the town grew with streets on all four sides of the park, and a centralized town square developed. Over time, actual trees were planted to make it a park, and sidewalks replaced the concrete watering troughs.
Historically significant businesses and attractions
Walton’s 5 and 10 – opened in May 1950 on the square and changed everything for this small town. As the Walmart company grew, other stores opened around Northwest Arkansas, neighboring states, and the globe. Today this original site serves as a visitor center, which opened in 1990.
Terry Block Building – original home to Col. William A Terry’s dry goods business and the Benton County Bank. The Spark Café and South Gallery of the Walmart Museum opened in 2011, and occupy this space today.
At the beginning of the 1900s, Benton County had more apple-producing trees than any other spot in the country, with the 1900 census noting “2.5 million bushels of apples shipped from Benton County.” The town square served as an agricultural center for the fruit industry, with distribution centers and mercantile occupying most of the structures around the square.
An opera house – served as an artillery assembly site during WWII and housed traveling vaudevilles, minstrels, and other performers.
Massey Hotel – a hotel has continually occupied this spot since 1840. The Eagle Hotel, an overnight stay for Union Officers before the Battle of Pea Ridge, later housed a monument company and then came down for R.D. Massey to build his hotel in 1909. Today it houses the Phat Tire Bike shop, a popular destination for the growing world-class cycling community.
Beautification was always a plan for the Bentonville part, turned Town Square. Today it remains a gathering spot for the community through seasonal events, racing experiences, Film Festivals, Walmart shareholders’ meetings, and a weekly farmer’s market from late spring to early fall.
Fun Highlights around the Bentonville Square
21C Hotel– boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, cultural center, and green penguins
Walton 5 and 10 and Museum and Spark Cafe – the site of the original Walton 5 and 10 is now the Walmart museum with Mr. Sam’s office and old truck
Lawrence Plaza – a summer splash pad, outdoor movie spot, and winter ice skating rink
Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!