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Commission pulls back on Clinton House Museum in Fayetteville

by Stacy Ryburn | September 22, 2020 at 7:35 a.m.
The Clinton House Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located at 930 W. Clinton Drive in Fayetteville. Bill and Hillary Clinton were married in the house and lived there during their early married life.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday voted to "wind down" operations at the Clinton House Museum with the intention of letting the lease with the University of Arkansas expire next year.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to scale back programming at the former home-turned-museum of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Beginning Jan. 1, the commission will pay only rent and maintenance expenses until the lease expires Dec. 31, 2021.

The university system's board bought the 1,800-square-foot Tudor Revival-style house for $249,950 in 2005. The commission rents the property for $1,300 a month and is in charge of running it.

The Clintons were married in the living room of the house in 1975. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

The museum houses a number of exhibits and pieces of Clinton family memorabilia. Distinguished lecturers speak there a few times a year, and the house plays host to a number of historically themed events. It has its own nonprofit organization with a board. The garden features the favorite flowers of the nation's first ladies.

The building closed to the public in March because of the covid-19 pandemic. It opened Sept. 10 and hosted an online speaker event last week. Two more speaker events are planned next month, and new exhibits are planned this year and next.

Molly Rawn, chief executive officer of the city's tourism bureau, Experience Fayetteville, said she will work on a plan to wind down programming, as directed by the commission. The commission governs the bureau.

"Putting together a winding-down plan is not pleasant, it's not how we thought we would've ended the year," she said. "But it also doesn't mean there's still not a really great future for the house out there. I'm committed to working with the Clinton House Museum board to figure out what that looks like."

Mark Rushing, university spokesman, said he understood the disruption created and the financial impacts caused by the coronavirus public health emergency.

"We look forward to working with the A&P Commission and the Clinton House Museum board regarding future plans for the museum," he said.

In June, the commission cut about $1.3 million from its nearly $5.4 million budget for the year because of covid-19. Most of the commission's revenue comes from half of the city's 2% hotel, motel and restaurant sales tax. The other half goes to parks.

Subsequently, the commission cut the budget for the Clinton House Museum to about $185,000 from a $240,000 operating budget approved at the beginning of the year. Rawn projected about $115,000 in actual expenses for the museum to operate through the end of the year. Expenses mostly cover personnel, maintenance and events.

Revenue from store sales, donations and renting the space for private events has always been lower than expenses. Last year, for instance, expenses were about $249,000 while revenue was about $19,000.

Commissioner Todd Martin proposed scaling back the museum operation, saying its costs are resting on the shoulders of the commission.

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Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @stacyryburn.


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