Support of history reason for Jazz in June

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 115 views 

At least 100 gathered Thursday evening for Jazz in June-New Orleans style to have a good time and raise money for the historic Bonneville House in Fort Smith’s historic district.

"We hope to raise $5,000 from this year's event. Last year, we raised $3,500,” said Deanie Mehl, co-chair of Jazz in June.

A string quartet played inside the Bonneville House while Larry B performed outside in the gardens. There was a silent auction, hors d'oeuvres, and new this year a cigar bar.  This was the 23rd year for the event. The event also featured pencil artist Lisa James from Memphis.

The Bonneville House was built in 1868 and sold 10 years later to Sue Bonneville, the widow of General Benjamin Bonneville. The General was famous for his explorations of the American west. The Bonneville Dam and Bonneville Salt Flats are named after him.

Bonneville’s connection to Fort Smith is noted on the history section of The Bonneville House website: “In his early career General Bonneville served at the Fort Smith Post in the Arkansas Territory. After the death of his wife and daughter he did not remarry until retiring to Fort Smith after his many years of service. His second wife, Susan Neis, of Fort Smith, bought this house after his death in 1878, and throughout her life preserved the memories, traditions and records of her gallant and distinguished husband. Although General Bonneville never lived in this house, Mrs. Bonneville lived here until her death in 1910, and prior to her death, established herself as a leader and this house as a center of social life in Fort Smith. Many elegant parties and receptions were held at the Bonneville House.”

In 1974, the City of Fort Smith established a local ordinance to protect and preserve the architectural integrity of the Belle Grove Historic District. The District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, reflects a variety of architectural styles and is the city’s oldest neighborhood. The Bonneville House is located in the Historic District, which covers a 22-block area adjacent to the downtown area in Fort Smith.

The mission of the Bonneville House Association is to preserve, protect and maintain the Bonneville House and its history. The Association actively manages the marketing, funding and general business of the House with a 15 member Board of Directors.

The Booneville House Association uses the money from fundraisers like Jazz in June to help preserve and restore the historical house.Three to four times a year they offer gourmet dinners. In addition, the association has a garden club that does gardening projects around the house.