Place In History: State review board to consider Palace for historic register

The State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program is considering listing an historic Benton structure on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places.

This will be a matter to be addressed in the board's next meeting, which is set for 10 a.m.Wednesday, Aug. 6, in Room 170 at 323 Center St. in Little Rock, according to the program director, Frances McSwain.

The Palace Theater at 224 W. South St. is a two-story brick structure built in 1919. Extensive alterations to the building preclude its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Since its construction in 1919, the building has served as a theater where the community could gather and watch popular motion pictures of the era or theatrical productions,” according to the Arkansas Register nomination.

“The Palace Theatre building also has been a place in which the youth of the city could congregate socially or participate in a variety of sports and recreational activities," the nomination form notes.

At the upcoming meeting, the board also will consider Redbug Field at Fordyce in Dallas County and Langley Gymnasium at Langley in Pike County for listing on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places.

Two years ago the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas named the Palace to Arkansas' Most Endangered Places listing.

The Palace Theatre opened its doors to a sold-out crowd on March 5, 1920. Unfortunately, the builder was forced to sell the theatre only a few months later. Throughout the 1920s the building changed ownership several times, but remained a movie and play theatre before closing its doors.

After World War II, residents joined together to reuse the building as a youth recreation center. The popular Play Palace attracted young people from around the county for recreation and social events.

The center closed in 1953 and the building was used as a gathering place for residents of Benton before the Panther Den opened in 1960. After its closure a few years later, the city remodeled the building, bricking up windows and installing an arched entrance. A white vinyl "slipcover" facade was added.

The Saline County Library opened there in 1967 and served the city in this capacity until 2003. In 2005, the city removed the slipcover from the front of the building, revealing the historic facade which was masked for nearly 50 years.

The building currently is used for storage by the Royal Players, the local community theater organization.
In addition to the Palace Theatre issue, the State Review Board will consider eight Arkansas properties for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Arkansas Register recognizes historically noteworthy places that are not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Properties to be considered for National Register nomination are Heagler House and Duffy House at North Little Rock in Pulaski County, Sid Hutcheson Building at Norfork in Baxter County, Redfield School Historic District at Redfield in Jefferson County, Carnahan House at Pine Bluff in Jefferson County, U.S. 64 Horsehead Creek Bridge at Hartman in Johnson County, Harold Adams Office Building at Fort Smith in Sebastian County and Beaver Spring at Beaver in Carroll County.

The AHPP is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency that identifies, evaluates, registers and preserves the state’s cultural resources. Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Delta Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Historic Arkansas Museum.

For more information on the National Register of Historic Places program, write the AHPP at 1500 Tower Building, 323 Center St., Little Rock, AR 72201; call the agency at (501) 324-9880 [TDD 501-324-9811; send e-mail to; or visit