Although this is just a replica of the train depot that once stood here, it was the beginning of the countries dream of transamerica travel. Benson was called "The Hub City" due to its transcontinental connections through its railroad line and when Route 80 was established. Now this lovely buidling serves as a reminder of Benson rich history and serves as a stopping point as a visitor center. These places are a wealth of information, so please take advantage of them.
As you already know, I really enjoy murals and will not hesitate to stop and get a photograph of one. Benson has many wonderful murals located just along the main Route 80 that is 4th Street.
It reads: "In honor and memory of our men and women in our armed forces who rendered service to our country during wartime and peacetime at home and overseas. We must never forget those who gave their lives for our country."
It is located right on the Route 80 (4th Street) and next to the train track. Be careful!
Benson Visitor Center (Train Depot)
249 East 4th Street
Benson, AZ 85602-6613
Benson's Chamber of Commerce web site you will find access to maps of Benson and a self Walking Tour. I so enjoy this information and appreciate it. So if you have time explore here, you should.
One place that caught my eye was the Zearing Merchantile: It was built before the trun of the century during Beson's railroad era. The commerical building has a had several owners, serving mainly as a general mechandise store. As Max Treu Territorial Meat Co., it was used to supply meat to the miners. Listed on the National Register, the building has be restored and features a noteworthy interior.
Benson Visitor Center
249 East 4th Street
Benson, AZ 85602-6613
Your first stop inside Kartchner Caverns State Park should be the exhibit center. They spent quite a bit of money to make it very informative and educational. This is also where you make resrvations to tour the Big Room (if it is between 15 October and 15 April) or the Rotunda Room (year round). Cost to see the Big Room is $12.95 (ages 7 to 13) and $22.95 (ages 14 and up), and cost for the Rotuinda Room is $9.95 (ages 7 to 13) and $18.95 (ages 14 and up), and free for children 6 and younger. Hours for the exhibition center are 7:30 AM to 6 PM daily except Christmas Day. They also have hiking trails, picnic facilities and 62 camping sites.
Sometime around 500,000 year ago water started eroding the limestone in the hill before you and formed the caverns. They were discovered by a couple of hikers who slithered through a very small slit and discovered a gigantic cavern. The caverns were kept a secret for several years before plans were made to form a state park and open the caverns to the public.
The Foothills Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile long trail rated moderate to difficult. The trail climbs the limestone hill north of the cave and descends into the wash that follows the fault between the Whetstone Block and the San Pedro Block. A short spur trail at the upper portion of the Foothills Loop Trail leads visitors to the scenic Mountain Viewpoint. In the first photo you can see the entrance to the cave.
The museum is housed in the former W. D. Martinez General Merchandise Store Building which was built in 1921. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo one Grinding and Mill Stones: These grinding and mill stones were found in the local area; Photo two General Store: This is a reproduction of the first general store opened in Benson; Photo three shows various artifacts; Photo four shows tools from an optometrist a dentist and a doctor; and photo five shows a reproduction of a horse drawn school bus.
There are also several displays outside the museum. Photo 1 shows a miniature Conestoga style wagon; Photo two shows a fireless engine that ran on a narrow gauge railroad at the Apache Powder Company Plant; Photo three is a communications and signal shed used by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1920s; Photo 4 shows an ore car used in a large mine around 1900; Photo five shows a collection of old tools.
The walking tour begins at the museum. You can obtain a map showing the route and explaining the various sites at the museum too. The first stop is the Goetz/C & W Building which is located at 301 E 4th Street. It was built sometime before 1909 as a general store. It is a false front commercial building.
The second stop was the Zearing's Mercantile Building located at 305 E 4th Street, and was built before the turn of the century, during Benson's railroad era. It was used to supply area miners with meat. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The third stop was the Hi Wo Company Grocery, located at 398 E 4th Street. The grocery was owned in 1896 by Hi Wo a Chinese man who came to Benson in support of the Chinese population working for the railroad. Hi Wo made lots of money and became a respected member of Benson society.
The fourth stop is the Benson Railroad Historic District which is located just north of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks on 3rd Street. The district consists of ten residences and one hotel, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The next stop is the Hotel Arnold located at 253 E 3rd Street. Th hotel was built in 1879 by retired engineer and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold A. McGinnis, to house railroad employees, passengers, commercial travelers, and salespeople. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The eighth stop on the route is the former Walker Drug Store, located at 274 E 4th Street. It is another example of the false front commercial building, and was built in the 1890 during the height of Benson's Railroad era.