Bill Clinton museum: First Clinton home set to take on historic site status

Bill Clinton museum is set to become a national historic site next year. Foreign visitors have made the Bill Clinton museum in Hope, Arkansas very popular.

Khue Bui/AP Photo/File
In this 1999 file photo, President Bill Clinton holds an umbrella under the porch of his childhood home in Hope, Ark. The Clinton First Home Museum in Hope will display the trappings of its new status as a national historic site come the first of the year.

The Clinton First Home Museum in Hope will display the trappings of its new status as a national historic site come the first of the year.

The future president lived in the two-story, wood-frame house on South Hervey Street until he was 4 years old, though the home served as the center of life for his extended family until he was 10. The home was sold after Bill Clinton's maternal grandfather, Eldridge Cassidy, died in 1956.

More than 80,000 people from 159 countries have toured the home since the museum opened in 1997, according to the museum. Director Martha Berryman said international visitors compose a large portion of tourists who seek out the home.

"The most rewarding aspect of my work during these almost five years as director has been our international visitors," said Berryman, who is completing a five-year run leading the museum. "They come with such a profound respect for what Clinton has done in their nations and lives and they share stories about his work that pierce the heart.

"They are not concerned with politics of Democrat or Republican, they only see the results of his diplomacy. It was in this house and from this family that President Clinton learned such effectiveness."

Berryman says Clinton developed the beginnings of his notion of social justice while living in the home. Cassidy ran a grocery store, where he served both black and white customers, an uncommon practice in the early 1950s.

Clinton and his mother moved to another home in Hope when Clinton was four, and moved to Hot Springs when he was seven. Even then, Clinton would spend summers at the home with his grandparents.

The Clinton Birthplace Foundation, which bought the home shortly after it was founded in 1993, began renovations in 1997, the same year the home was declared a national landmark. The foundation has made a gift of the site to the National Park Service.

People making a return visit to the center after it reopens from the New Year's Day holiday on Jan. 2 will notice that uniformed park service workers will staff the facility, which includes the home and an adjacent gift shop that also has historical displays.

The exposure that comes from being listed as a national historic site is expected to help tourism in the region. Amtrak recently announced it would add a stop in Hope by its Texas Eagle train line.

The superintendent of the site will be Laura Miller, who was chief interpreter at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site since 2001.

"I was involved with the Central High site from the very beginning and I'm looking forward to planning and developing a new site, particularly since we have such a wonderful head start provided for us by the Clinton Birthplace Foundation board and staff who restored the home and have been operating the site for many years now," Miller said.

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