Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Hester-Lenz House
Hester-Lenz House

HESTER-LENZ HOUSE, BENTON, SALINE COUNTY

SUMMARY

The Hester-Lenz House is located on Highway 5 in Benton, Arkansas, on what was the Southwest Trail or Military Road in SalineCounty.Based on local tradition, the home may be the oldest on its original site still standing in SalineCounty, and may have been the site of a meeting to determine if SalineCounty would vote in favor of statehood.The home is a notable example of a two-story dog-trot log cabin, and an interesting example of German-influenced vernacular construction applied over the existing log home.As a result, the Hester-Lenz House is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C.

ELABORATION

Based on an abstract of the property, it was purchased from the U.S. Government on June 30, 1836, by James Hester, and it is believed that he constructed the two-story, dog-trot style log home currently standing on the property in 1836-7.Based on local tradition, the home was constructed utilizing slave labor and virgin pine cut from the site.It is also believed that the bricks used in the construction were also made with slave labor, utilizing the abundant deposits of red clay in the area.The log construction utilized by Hester is interesting in that the logs interlock without protruding past the ends of adjacent logs, allowing siding to be directly attached over the logs.

 

It is believed, based on the lack of wear on the logs, that the structure was faced with siding very early on.The original log poles used to support the original gable roof are still visible upstairs.At an unknown point in time, double-hung, wood-frame, six-over-six windows were added to the structure by boring holes and then sawing through the logs for the windows.In addition, the open dog-trot portion of the cabin was enclosed, and the original fireplaces in both the east and west pens were removed and the openings boarded up.

 

In 1850, the property was acquired by John Nelson, who lived on the property from July 2, 1850, until his death in 1873.A cemetery associated with the home, which lies nearby, contains descendents of the Nelson family, and slaves are believed to be buried close by.

 

Jabez Smith, a former colonel of the 11th Arkansas Infantry, C.S.A., and a former SalineCounty circuit judge, acquired the property from the Nelson Estate in 1873.The property then passed to Joseph and Salome Lenggenhager, recent immigrants from German-influenced Northern Switzerland, upon the death of Smith in 1891.After their acquisition of the property in 1891, Joseph and Salome Lenggenhager are believed to have added the room to the east side of the east pen, and are believed to have added the dormers to the front and side of the structure, changing the gable roof to a hip style.Family tradition has it that the roof line was changed to make the home more reminiscent of German architecture, as Joseph and Salome both immigrated from German-speaking Northern Switzerland as adults and were said to be homesick.What are believed to be the original cedar shake shingles from the hip roof still exist under the asphalt shingles.In addition to the work on the main house, Joseph also constructed the main barn on the property, beginning construction almost immediately after acquiring the property in 1891.

 

Joseph and Salome’s only surviving daughter, Alwena (Lenggenhager) Lenz, and her husband, Wilhelm Lenz, inherited the property in 1922.Wilhelm Lenz had immigrated to this country from Germany in 1902.Wilhelm is believed to have dug the basement under the house, and added a bedroom with access to the basement on the north side of the west pen and added a two-story addition on the north side of the east pen, which served as a kitchen downstairs and a bedroom for his numerous children upstairs.Small German-influenced shelves and cabinets exist inside the structure from this period or before.It is believed that an enclosed porch on the east side of the east room addition was added at this time, along with a porch on the north side of the kitchen addition, which housed a well with a hand-pump.

 

The property was inhabited by Oscar F. Lenz, son of Alwena and Wilhelm Lenz, from 1922 until his death in 1992.His occupancy of the home saw the installation of indoor plumbing in 1977, with the addition of a bathroom on the west side of the kitchen addition.An electric well pump was added about the same time to provide running water to the bathroom and kitchen.Electricity had been added at some previous unknown date, and was updated during Oscar’s occupancy of the structure.Additionally, in 1984, Oscar Lenz had a concrete porch added on the east of the structure, and a carport constructed which extends on the east side of the kitchen.

 

Oscar F. Lenz was limited physically due to an injury he sustained in his employment.His limitations and advancing age led to the decline of the property later in his lifetime, and the property has significantly deteriorated since his death.The roof over the bathroom addition is almost gone, and the kitchen roof leaks badly.There is significant termite damage to the floor plates, and the roof over the front porch is being held up with props.Even so, the property remains in the Lenz family, having been acquired in October, 2000, by William G. Lenz, great-great grandson of Joseph and Salome Lenggenhager.

 

Both the Lenggenhager and Lenz families substantially modified the original structure, and together created the home so many people in this area are familiar with today.Many of the details of the additions and alterations to the home by the Lenggenhagers and Lenzes are very unique in that they exhibit strong German influence, and are also a testament to the family’s long association with the property since 1891.Although the property has deteriorated in recent years, William G. Lenz, the current owner is dedicated to the preservation of his family’s home.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Hester-Lenz House is located on Highway 5 in Benton, Arkansas, on what was the Southwest Trail or Military Road in SalineCounty.Based on local tradition, the home may be the oldest on its original site still standing in SalineCounty, and may have been the site of a meeting to determine if SalineCounty would vote in favor of statehood.The home is a notable example of a two story dog-trot log cabin, and an interesting example of German-influenced vernacular construction applied over the existing log home.As a result, the Hester-Lenz House is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion C.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abstract of the property.

 

Information provided by Anthony Rushing of the SalineCounty Historical Society.