GANN BUILDING

If you were to make a comprehensive list of all the buildings in the world constructed out of bauxite, it would read thus:

	1)This'n right here

This is the Gann Building on Market Street in Benton; and sure enough, its walls are made out of bauxite, the aluminum ore to which this area owes much of its prosperity. This three-room office was built by hand in 1893 for Dr. Dewell Gann by patients who could not otherwise afford to pay their doctor bills.

Because bauxite is relatively soft right out of the ground, the builders sawed the blocks square with handsaws and allowed them to harden in the sun for six weeks before assembling them into this gingerbread house, which served as the Gann Medical office from 1893 to 1946. Bauxite is not generally used as a building material because of the softness of the stone, yet plenty of brick buildings built since 1893 have crumbled into dust, while the Gann Building has stood for over a hundred years. The building appeared in Ripley's Believe it or Not as the only bauxite building in the world; and since nobody has challenged the claim, the people of Benton assume that it is true.

The building now houses a museum, the highlight of which is an exhibit of Niloak pottery, which was made of fine clays mined locally and manufactured back before the second world war using a closely-held, secret process. The secret and the product line died suddenly and unexpectedly along with the keeper of the secret, who drowned while trying to rescue panicked swimmers. At least that's what I'm led to believe by the guide, who was the daughter of the drowned man.

In any case, no more Niloak. Incidentally, the fine clay is known in mineralogically literate circles as kaolin -- spell it backwards and you have Niloak.

Other exhibits include Native American and Civil War artifacts.

RTJ--5/21/97



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