Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Look Inside the William J. Clinton Presidential Birthplace Home National Historic Site.

The place recognized as the childhood home of our 42nd president is in the news right now for a suspected arson, but will certainly be cleaned up and re-opened soon.  Here's what it looked like before the fire at Bill Clinton's earliest home.

This green trimmed white house was originally constructed in 1917 for Dr. H.S. Garrett, and modeled after a similar abode he'd live in while in France.  It was purchased by Eldridge Cassidy and Edith Grisham Cassidy, Clinton’s grandparents, in 1938.

What you can see from this photo is the north side of the house, with the kitchen windows downstairs and the windows to Bill's nursery upstairs.  The boxy form right next to those second floor windows is a fan boxing, where a fan would have been put to bring air through the house during the summer months.  This is the side of the house where the fire occurred.

The home is on Hervey Street, the main street from Interstate 30 to downtown.  The National Parks Service visitors center is on Division Street, a half block to the northeast. The site is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.  I suspect it'll be a short while before the house is back in order, but when it is, tours are free and they're available every 30 minutes.

The visitors center is a good place to stop and look around, even if you can't tour the home.  There are displays inside that cover Bill Clinton's life, along with the history of his family and some bits about Hope as well (there's also the Hope Visitors Center and Museum, three blocks up
Division Street in the old restored 1912 depot, which will tell you more about the area).  The center also offers restrooms and a gift shop.

The other homes that once lined that block of Division Street are gone, but the space allows for a garden and lawn, which
you'll cross on your way to the house.

In case you were wonder, Bill Clinton wasn't born here.  He wasn't even called Bill Clinton.  He was the son of William Jefferson Blythe III, who married Virginia Cassidy, his mother.  Unfortunately, Blythe was killed in an auto accident before his son was born, and Virginia moved in with her parents.

William J. Blythe IV was born August 19, 1946 at Julia Chester Hospital, which is gone today (a plaque marks where it once stood).  His grandparents raised him in this home while their daughter studied nursing in New Orleans. When his mother married Roger Clinton in 1950, they moved to a house on 13th Street, and a few years later they relocated to Hot Springs. As you guessed, the boy took on his stepfather's name.

The tour enters through the front door. Inside, the living room takes up the entire front half of the first floor.

Living room, north side.
Living room, south side.

Corner of living room.
The tour guides for the visit are very knowledgeable about their subject, and a couple of them are also rather funny.  They're a great resource for stories.  

The dining room looks out over the sideyard, and is located on the southeastern corner of the first floor.

The dining room, with crib.

The view from the dining room window.
 The kitchen was small but well-stocked.  There's a galley in-between the kitchen and dining room, where plates, china, glassware and silverware was kept.

The old Blackstone stove and the water heater for the house, on the west side of the kitchen.

Cabinets on the east side of the kitchen. Note the two-faucet sink.
A small kitchen table on the north side of the kitchen looks out onto the north yard.

The upstairs portion of the 2100 square foot home housed living quarters - two bedrooms, a bath and a nursery.  Once the tour group proceeds upstairs, the tour begins again in Virginia Blythe's bedroom, which includes the front half of the second story of the house.

There's a crib in the corner of this room, as well as a chaise lounge, phonograph and makeup table.

Honestly, the first thing that hit me when I entered was how girly and sweet it was.

Virginia Cassidy Blythe's make-up table and dresser.

At the end of the hall, over the southeast corner of the house, there's the grandparent's bedroom,
where Eldridge Cassidy and Edith Grisham Cassidy slept in separate beds.

The embroidery on these pillows reads:
"I slept and dreamed that life was beauty
I woke and found that life was duty."
The household's only bathroom is on the east side of the second floor, and it contains a clawfoot tub.

I still have a wall heater like that one in my house today.
And then, the place everyone wants to see -- Bill Clinton slept here.

Yes, that's a Hoppalong Cassidy bedspread.  What else, for the Cassidy grandson?
One of the boy's books, along with a childhood photo, are in a case nearby.

The nursery is rather small, but it does include this single bed, desk and chair.

At this writing, there's no expected opening date for reopening the home to tours.  I hope these photos sate curiosity for now.  Please, if you are in Hope, do visit the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site.

While you're in the area, drop in down the street at the Hope Visitors Center and Museum.
Dine at Amigo Juan's.

Six miles up the road, you'll find Historic Washington State Park, which contains the second-oldest existing restaurant building in the state, William's Tavern Restaurant.  It's excellent.

And if you're planning to make a stay in the area, consider Grace Cottage.

1 comment:

  1. Such a shame that someone would deliberately set fire to the home. I'm so glad it was discovered early.


Be kind.