Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Visit Arkansas for a ‘Billgrimage’

Clinton House Museum
If you watched the Democratic Convention this summer, you might remember former Pres. Bill Clinton talking about his early days in Arkansas and meeting and marrying Hillary in Fayetteville. In fact, the couple was married in the living room of that bungalow near the University of Arkansas, where both taught law.
The former Clinton residence is now open as the Clinton House Museum and includes photos, campaign materials and other memorabilia from when the Clintons resided there. The home, which is listed on the National Historic Registry, is located at 930 W. Clinton Drive in Fayetteville.
But that’s only one of the many sites throughout Arkansas that honor the Clintons. Here are the others for what tourism folks call a “Billgrimage,” since most have to do with Bill Clinton, the 42nd U.S. president and former governor of Arkansas (except for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock).
Hot Springs, Arkansas
The two-story white frame house at 117 S. Hervey in the small town of Hope in Southwest Arkansas was the birthplace of William Jefferson Clinton, now a National Historic Site. The house belonged to Clinton's grandparents and is where he lived the first four years of his life. Near the home is the Hope Visitor Center and Museum, located in the former Union Pacific Railroad Depot at South Main and Division streets. Exhibits and videos on the history of the town and Clinton's connection to Hope can be seen here. A hand-carved wooden sign honoring Clinton is located in a park adjacent to the visitor center.
Clinton's childhood home on Park Avenue in Hot Springs is close to schools he attended and his favorite hangouts. A hand-carved sign honoring him is located in the Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Avenue downtown. Be sure to stop by McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant, a favorite of Bill’s and a host of others; the barbecue is to die for!
            After Bill and Hillary were married in Fayetteville, Bill became governor and the couple lived in various residences in Little Rock, including the Arkansas Governor's Mansion at 18th and Center streets. A bronze bust of Bill Clinton can be seen on the grounds of the mansion. Also in Little Rock, Bill Clinton announced his bid for the presidency in 1991 at the Old State House Museum at 300 W. Markham St., which once served as the first state capitol and is now a museum of Arkansas history.
Oval Office replica at William J. Clinton Presidential Library
             The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, located at 1200 E. President Clinton Ave. in Little Rock, houses the largest collection of presidential papers and artifacts in the U.S. Visitors may learn of Bill Clinton and his years in the White House, plus his family life and post-presidential work. There is a replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room (left) that’s a favorite among visitors (check out the goofy photo below of me enjoying the presidential moment).
The Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, which is part of the Arkansas River Trail, is a ramped pedestrian pathway located next to the presidential center. Also adjacent to the center is the Presidential Park Wetlands that contains 13 acres of wetlands along the Arkansas River that’s perfect for a stroll after a visit to the presidential library. Next door is the historic Choctaw Station, which was built in 1899 and is now the home of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
            For more information about Clinton sites in Arkansas, visit www.Arkansas.com/things-to-do/arts/clinton-library.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is a food and travel writer living in South Louisiana. She is also the author of several Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire and the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

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