Gentry, Arkansas

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Gentry is a city in Benton County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 2,165 at the 2000 census. It is part of the FayettevilleSpringdaleRogers, AR-MO Metropolitan Statistical Area.



Gentry began as a rural Ozark agricultural community named Orchard City. Located in Western Benton County, it was known for its apple orchards and other produce. The town began to grow when the Kansas City Southern Railroad constructed a railroad through the town. In 1894, residents of the community petitioned the county to officially incorporate, and the city's name was changed to Gentry, after an official in charge of the construction of the railroad.

The railroad proved important to Gentry and by 1903 the town had grown to a population of 1,000.

The railroad company built a new depot in Gentry in 1926-1927. It was known as one of the nicest depots on the railway line. A banquet was held for the grand opening and railway officials arrived on a special train to commemorate the event. Four to six passenger trains a week came through Gentry until passenger service was discontinued in 1964.

In 1937, Arkansas Highway 59 was built, running through the city north and south. It remains the main highway through the city, linking Gentry with other west Benton County communities.

In 1946, the City Council voted to buy a water tank for $1,650 from the War Assets Corporation in Kentucky. In 1948, the city held a special election to issue bonds to install larger water mains and additional fireplugs. In the 1950s, the city purchased its own water company. At the beginning of the 21st century, Gentry was expanding water lines into rural areas surrounding the community.

Using donations, local businesses built the first auditorium at the intersection of Main and Collins Streets. The building now houses the city's police department and courtroom.

In the 1960s, when agriculture was no longer the economic base it had once been for the city and the railroad, the train depot was torn down.

The next decade saw the beginning of the construction of a power plant by Southwestern Electric Power Company (often known as SWEPCO). The plant is a coal-fueled electric generating facility called Flint Creek Power Plant. Today SWEPCO continues to provide electrical power, and SWEPCO Lake (known by locals as "hot lake") is used for fishing and recreation. To ease traffic through down town, a new Arkansas Highway 12 bypass was built on the southern edge of town. In the early 1970s, the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari was established north of town. The 400-acre park is home to a variety of exotic animals and consists of a 4-mile drive-through, petting parks and walk-through areas for interaction with the animals.

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