As we made our way north up Texas 6, we entered the City of Benjamin, pop: 264. As the Knox County Seat and the town boasting, “Small Town, Big Country!” we hardly expected a bustling metropolis, especially on a Sunday afternoon. What we DID find was one of the most unique things– no, TWO of the most unique things we have yet to find in our travels. According to their Chamber of Commerce (remember, I do a little recon on the way into a town) we expected mesquite trees, cowboys and horses, a little tumbleweed, and, of course, a town square with a courthouse.
So as we drove the Square in our usual pattern (see The Crazy Train’s 10 Rules of the Road Trip), and we stumbled upon this, we HAD to stop and investigate.
The town of Benjamin used to have a bank on the Square. But now, the bank is gone, but the vault…. well, the vault remains. It’s a massive iron structure that is mostly still surrounded by deteriorating brick and crumbling mortar. In these gaps, you can see that the vault, rusted to a brilliant shade of deep red-orange, is still completely in tact. OF COURSE I had to play with the dial (it still spins, although with some difficulty) and the handle jiggles a bit. But, alas, it is locked up tight, and since I neglected to bring my frontier bank vault safe cracking kit and nitro glycerine, I wasn’t able to get inside. Plus, it’s right next door to the Sheriff’s office, and I didn’t feel like getting arrested for attempted bank robbery.
Unfortunately, no amount of googling yielded any juicy details as to how this came to be, but one can only fantasize. Buildings come and go, but a solid, iron cast vault doesn’t vanish so easily!
The other fascinating bit we found in Benjamin was the old jail. The old Knox County Jail has been converted into a private residence, which was pretty freaking awesome. I’ve always thought it’d be fun to convert an unconventional structure into a house, so this really appealed to me. HOWEVER, when we saw this, my mind was still consumed with the vault, so I didn’t get any pictures. I guess this means we will just have to go back!