Reopened Clinton Home part of 100-year celebration of National Park Service

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 126 views 

Among the national parks in Arkansas celebrating the centennial year of the National Park Service is the newly reopened President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Hope. The home is where Bill Clinton, the 42nd U.S. President, spent the first four years of his life with his mother and grandparents.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the agency on Aug. 25, 1916.

“On August 25, we are going to join the entire country in celebration,” said Tarona Armstrong, superintendent of the Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. “It is a celebration that has already been kicked off throughout the year with a couple of programs. Here on site we are going to do Music in the Park and will be providing special evening tours of the birthplace home. We will bring in local artists and celebrate not only the centennial but also President Clinton’s 70th birthday, which is also in August.”

The Clinton birthplace home became a national historic site in 2010. It was transferred from the Clinton Birthplace Foundation Inc. to the National Park Service System and officially opened to the public as a NPS site in January 2011. Armstrong said visiting the home is a chance to walk through the same doors similar to what Clinton walked through when he stayed there with his mother and grandparents.

The park’s visitor center includes exhibits about President Clinton’s early life in Hope and guided tours are offered of the home. On Christmas morning of last year, the home was the unfortunate target of arson and was closed for repairs until July 30. The home is now fully open for guided tours. Armstrong said all of the furniture and artifacts were brought back and placed in the same spot they were in.

“We had a layout of exactly where they were,” she said. “We have to keep in mind the home was already open for visitation prior to the park service coming on board. At that time President Clinton’s mother assisted the foundation in laying out the house, giving them a great idea of exactly how she remembered where everything was. So we wanted to keep it in the same frame. We are fortunate none of the items were lost in the fire. All of them had to be cleaned and somewhat restored to the original look.”

President Clinton was notified when the fire happened. He also made a point to personally call and thank the person who contacted the fire department that morning and discovered the fire.

A question Armstrong is often asked is why the property has already become a historic site. “People sometimes wonder because of him being a former U.S. President and still living,” she said. “We often think that doesn’t occur until one has passed away. But that is why we are here, the interpreters, to convey the importance of preserving a home now rather than later and telling the story. But the story will continue; it hasn’t ended. We do focus heavily on his formative years but we do talk about the work that he is doing globally and the impact. I think it’s awesome to tell the story of a little boy that comes from a small town in Hope and later became the man that he is.”

The Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site is located at 117 South Hervey Street in Hope. Arkansas is also home to other units within the National Park System including Hot Springs National Park; Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett; the Buffalo National River, the first river in the country to land title as a national river; the Fort Smith National Historic Site; Little Rock Central High School; and Pea Ridge National Military Park.