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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Couple will open Benton's oldest house to the public

Friday, December 16, 2005

Judy Stewart (right) points out one of the several repairs to Lisa Vetter, who grew up in Stewart's newly renovated house in Benton.
BENTON -- The white frame house nestled on the corner of New Madrid and Missouri streets in Benton has endured much more over the past 175 years than the daily hustle and bustle of family life.

Located behind the present Scott County Courthouse and adjacent to the Scott County Sheriff's Office, the two-story Victorian home was the first frame house built in Benton back in 1831. It was used as a storehouse until about 1840 and later withstood the commotion of the Civil War in the 1860s.

"It's interesting to think it was standing during the Civil War and went through all of that," said the home's owner, Judy Stewart. "The original courthouse was destroyed during Civil War, and this house is still standing." In the early 1900s, Dr. Sydney Wade lived and practiced his profession in the home. And when a fire struck the south end of town years ago, the house temporarily made room for residents left homeless.

And over the past 100 years, the house has been a home to various families in the area, most recently to Stewart and her husband, Rusty. Since purchasing the home about a year ago, the couple have worked to restore the aging structure.

"I've always wanted an old house to fix up," Stewart said.

Comprised of 11 rooms -- five, of which, are bedrooms -- the house also has three staircases -- one in the master bedroom, one in the foyer and one in the kitchen. Every room has been restored except for the bathroom.

"It has hardwood floors throughout, and we stripped and restained them. We replastered a room. We painted every room, and we redid the stairway but nothing real major," Stewart said.

Now the Benton couple is planning to share their historic home with the community. On Saturday the Stewarts will host a public Victorian Christmas Open House. Free tours of the home will be given from 5 to 8 p.m. by the Stewarts, who plan to dress in costume for the occasion.

"Everybody in town has been asking me about it, and they know we've been redoing the house," Stewart said about why she decided to open her home to the public.

To give the house a real Victorian Christmas feel, Stewart put up six Christmas trees throughout the home. One of the upstairs bedrooms has a Raggedy Ann and Andy theme with over 300 dolls. Another room is decorated with vintage dolls from the 1950s while the another is decorated with a vintage boy's theme.

"After we bought the house, I thought I'd love to know the history of this house, and I went digging through the library," Stewart said.

Stewart's research confirmed the home has ties to the New Madrid and Sikeston area. Joseph Hunter III is credited with building the home after moving to Benton from New Madrid.

"Joseph Hunter came from New Madrid, and when he moved here, he named the street in the front of the house after his hometown," Stewart said. While the Hunter family was of course the first to reside at the Benton home, others followed.

"It was also once called the Walker house," Stewart said. "At that time it was an inn. And then the Wade family lived there for years."

In addition to the library, Stewart received some information about the home from its former residents, Evangeline "Lynn" and Charles B. Wade of Benton, who lived in the home from the 1950s through the 1980s.

"Judy has been down here, and I have shown her some pictures," Mrs. Wade said. "And she has a picture of the house when it was first built when it had porches."

Wade said anyone who's interested in older homes would enjoy seeing the house, adding she remembered it had a really nice staircase. "I thought the house was nice when we lived there, and we didn't do anything there like they're doing," Wade said. "I think it's really nice and am glad to see someone doing it."

Over the years, people have come and gone, porches were removed and windows replaced, but the house at 111 N. New Madrid St. has always garnered interest from its town's residents.

"They know it's the oldest frame house in Benton," Stewart said. "And they wanted it fixed up."