Preserving History

AzGT sponsors Benson Historical Museum to help establish new location

From the Union Pacific Railroad to Apache Powder, which is now known as Apache Nitrogen, Benson has seen a number of industries, endeavors and individuals contribute to the community that exists today. As an integral part of the Benson community, Arizona Generation and Transmission Cooperatives (AzGT) is also contributing to the effort to preserve the knowledge of how Benson started and how it became the place that it is today. A recent contribution to the Benson Historical Museum assisted with repairs to its new location on 4th Street, across from the Benson Visitor Center.

The new, 4th Street location of the Benson Historical Museum holds twelve exhibits that include ones that relate to teaching and education.

“Half of the building’s front had been compromised by broken windows due to the age of the wood window frames. Your financial help in replacing the wood frames and window glass made all the difference in security, and providing a wonderful front window display,” said Judianne Lee, president of the Benson Historical Museum Board. “The help with repairing the cooling system certainly made the visitors and the guides much more comfortable during the overly hot summer months and especially the months while all of the museum staff was getting the building ready for visitors.”

The museum now has two locations: the original location on San Pedro Street and the new one on 4th Street, which is the downtown location. The board is selling two buildings near the San Pedro location in order to secure the downtown building. In the process, it is reducing its utility costs while gaining visibility on Benson’s main artery. The new location also provides needed office and storage space. Visitors can pay $7 to visit the downtown location, $8 for San Pedro, or $12 for both.

“The museum board believes that both locations of the museum serve as a very valuable resource for the community,” Lee explained. “It is the source for learning about the area development all the way back to the 15th Century.  The development of the West, the westward movement of the railroads, the mining history, ranchers, farmers, teachers and all of those who blazed a movement that created a community is a fascinating history.”

Lee said that the downtown location features exhibits of “high interest” and serves as a learning lab for those who want to study or peruse more than 1100 historical photographs. She explained that the downtown location houses twelve exhibits, among which are teacher and education exhibits. The San Pedro location focuses on some of the larger exhibits, such as the 1914 horse-drawn school bus that Alvah Fenn drove to carry students from Pomerene to Benson. The San Pedro location also has exhibits that show the history of Apache Nitrogen, such as a full Apache Powder plant display and the 1922 angel buggy that carried explosives.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this valuable organization,” Lee said. “It continues my teaching career in a very meaningful way.  Each and every discovery is another opportunity to share knowledge of our rich historical heritage.”

The museum offered guided tours; however, the pandemic changed that and forced the museum to close during the busiest time for tourism. Now, visitors can use printed materials for self-guided tours. Tour guides, whom Lee said observe all safety precautions, are on hand to answer questions.

“The museum board is extremely grateful to the help and sponsorship that has been provided by AzGT over the past several years,” Lee said. “You have made it possible for the museum to be able to keep the doors open to continue greeting the visitors.”