Saline County was created on November 2, 1835, and three years later Jacob Hoover constructed a two-story brick building to house county government. This building was replaced in 1856, but by 1901 the county had outgrown this second courthouse, and Thompson was hired to design a much larger structure. It is a rather plain Romanesque Revival building with a few classical touches, notably the pedimented gable, but it is given interest by the differently shaped towers at each corner. Three of the towers (one each of square, round, and polygonal) are the same height as the building, and the fourth, a square clock tower, is six stories tall and concludes with a tall pyramidal roof. Despite the variations in shape and height of the towers, Thompson successfully creates a harmonious composition, as he did for Clark County Courthouse (CL1), which is similar to this one. A later addition (1995, Black, Corley, Owens) to the courthouse is a Postmodern interpretation of Thompson’s design and is carefully placed not to obstruct or overwhelm the original building.
Inside the courthouse is a PWA mural, The Bauxite Mines, painted by Julius Woeltz in 1942 and moved here from the former U.S. Post Office (1939, Louis A. Simon, Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury) at 129 N. Main. The 6 × 12–foot mural depicts an open pit mine with men drilling holes for dynamite and others loading bauxite into a cart. Bauxite, a raw material for making aluminum, was discovered in the area in 1887 and became an important industry for the county. Bauxite is hardly ever used as a building material because it is soft, but Benton has a rare example of a bauxite building, namely the Gann Museum (SA3).