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School History

Benton High School

The district rented the Old English Hall at King Hill Road and Colorado Avenues. Named in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri statesman from 1820-1850, it existed only from September to November of 1905 while a permanent location was found.

November of 1905 saw the students move to the top of the Harvard Street Hill where Cumberland Street intersects. The early classes of 1909 and 1910 were sent to Central High School and it was not until 1911 that the first class actually graduated. The original structure cost $91,000 to build. The school still has a silent, 16mm film made by Fred Vandersloot, the principal during the thirties. In the latter part of this decade, it became apparent that a new building was needed. A survey, states the following:

The site upon which the Benton School is located was chosen without reference to adequate standards. Because of its location on the brow of one of the highest pieces of land in South St. Joseph, it was impossible to get an adequate playground in this locality which would suffice for the present school and for future growth. The inadequacy of site and the unfortunate location have also greatly influenced the style of architecture and also limited that possibility of expansion. Five or six acres should be procured across First Street in the sloping territory to the east of the present plant. This was done and the aforementioned film shows the leveling of the land, using only shovels, single blade plows pulled by mules, and one rather primitive tractor. The leveling took the side of a hill and made a football field out of it. In the late thirties, a new site was chosen.

Much controversy arose because the new site was not the one recommended nor was it the one preferred by the members of the community. The recommended site was at Tenth and Noyes Avenue. Noyes Avenue is the street currently known as Mason Road.

On the morning of March 21, 1940, the students picked up their books and marched down the east slope of Harvard Street Hill to 5655 South Fourth Street and the new Benton High School. In 1941, the seventh grade was dropped and in 1968, with the establishment of the middle school program by the District, the eighth grade left. Today, the school has had four additions and remains as one of the three public high schools in the city.