Hester-Lenz: Arkansas’s Original Dog-Trot House!

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

We’re flat-out addicted to the allure of abandoned places. So we’ve sent Liz on a mission to hop alphabetically from state-to-state exploring bygone structures steeped in history and mystery. Today, she’s paying a visit to the great state of Arkansas!
Dream of restoring an abandoned home? The Hester-Lenz house, a vacant home in Benton, Arkansas, would provide the right person the opportunity to rehabilitate an exceptional example of rural, Antebellum architecture and folklore! Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hester-Lenz house was constructed on land which was once the Southwest Trail — a route utilized by pioneers traveling westward to Texas during the nineteenth century. James Hester purchased the land from the U.S. Government in 1836 and in 1837, Thomas Rowland constructed a two-story log cabin in a dogtrot design.


Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas. They have many, many wonderful photos of the house on their website!

Dogtrot homes were common in the South during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These dwellings usually consisted of two log cabins, attached in the middle by a breezeway, or dogtrot. Dogtrots allowed for air to circulate throughout both sides of the dwelling, a necessary and much appreciated feature during sweltering Southern summers. Historically, one side of the home was used for cooking and for daily activities, while the other side was utilized as sleeping quarters. Dogtrot homes were usually one to one-and-a-half stories tall. Many featured full-length covered porches on either the front, or front and rear of the homes.

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

Rowland built his brick and pine log home with the use of slave labor. After Rowland sold the property in 1850, the home changed hands twice until Swiss immigrants, the Lenggenhager’s, purchased the property in 1891. Influenced by the European architecture of their homeland, the Lenggenhager family modified the original dogtrot dwelling to reflect architectural details seen throughout Eastern Europe. The original second-story gable roof was modified to include hipped dormers over all windows. The family also added an addition to the eastern section of the dwelling and a centered, third floor, single-room addition with a hipped roof, which added height to the building.

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.


Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a basement was dug, outbuildings were constructed, the porch was enclosed, and the dogtrot was closed off, creating a more uniform dwelling. While many changes occurred to the Hester-Lenz house throughout the first hundred-and-fifty years of its existence, it wasn’t until the 1970s that indoor plumbing was finally installed in the home.

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.


Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

The Hester-Lenz house was a home adored by all of the families who resided in it, witnessed by the continuing construction it saw over the years and the care that was taken to maintain the century-old dwelling during the nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries. In the late twentieth century, after the last owner, Oscar Lenz, passed away in 1992, the home began to fill in to disrepair and became another antebellum architectural relic time and people forgot.
While abandoned, the Hester-Lenz house remains as an excellent, intact example of a dogtrot-style dwelling. The exterior pine boards, hewn almost two centuries ago, are still seen both inside and outside the home. Four-over-four and six-over-six wood windows are interspersed throughout the home, still clad on the upper floors by wood dormers covered in wood singles. In the property’s barn, built-in wooden chicken coops remain, and mesh wiring still covers the windows of a lean-to shed.
The Hester-Lenz house exemplifies the history of America; constructed on a historic pioneer trail and built with slave labor, the house changed with the immigrants that inhabited it, just like the cities and towns throughout America that were altered by the traditions and ways of life immigrants brought from Europe over to America. Modern amenities like air conditioning no longer necessitate the construction of dogtrots in homes. However, the character and uniqueness that the Hester-Lenz house exemplifies, even in its state of abandonment, remind us of how America’s earlier residents utilized architecture to adapt to their surroundings.

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Arkansas.

Liz was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the home of New Hope, Doylestown, and several other idyllic, flawlessly-restored and preserved towns. Upon returning to the Philadelphia area post-grad school, Liz purchased a circa 1940’s, Normandy-style row home which features the original wood floors, vintage glass door knobs and slate roof from when it was constructed. She is on the board of a historic Swedish cabin and working in the real estate development field while making a go of a career in preservation.


  • Michael Schwarz

    Hi! I’m the owner of Abandoned Arkansas! Thanks for the link back to the website. We are working on documenting a ton of old homes in AR that would be right up your alley. This is a wonderful website and I enjoy what you do! If you want any higher quality images from Hester-Lenz or any other location just email us at info@AbandonedAR.com.

    • CIRCAhouses

      Michael I love YOUR site! Thank you so much for getting in touch! Your incredible photos really made this article, and I appreciate all you and your colleagues have done to help out the cause. I’ll definitely be in touch in the future!

  • Michael Woods

    I have spoken with almost everybody who knows anything about this house in the last 3 years except the property owners, Its owned by the same family that’s owned it since the 1880’s and they will not return my calls. My uncle is a General contractor and I’ve been dreaming about getting this place and restoring it for the last 10 years. It needs lots of work, its riddled with termites and wood rot but the original single story dog trot is still sound from what I’ve been able to tell on my many visits to the property. The second story was added in i think the 1840’s and its had updates and additions ever since. its been abandoned since the early 90’s


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