Photographs by Courtesy Photo
The Clayton House, built in 1882, was restored in 1977 and celebrates its40th birthday this weekend.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Julia Yadon wasn't a historic preservationist. What she was, says Julie Moncrief, executive director of the Clayton House museum, was "a little bored and realized she needed to do more than go drink coffee at church."
The year was 1969, and Yadon had become interested in housing for the homeless and displaced. Looking around Fort Smith, she saw a neighborhood of Victorian homes -- or foundations where the homes had already been demolished. One of the survivors, at 514 N. Sixth St., was scheduled for condemnation, but Yadon "stopped the wrecking ball," Moncrief says. And Fort Smith Director Tracy Pennartz will portray Yadon to stop it again Sunday, when the Clayton House marks the 40th anniversary of its restoration.
WHEN — 1:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE — Clayton House in Fort Smith
COST — Free; the museum operates on donations
INFO — 783-3000
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, the house wasn't fully restored until 1977. But Yadon continued her efforts beyond the home, starting the Fort Smith Heritage Foundation and mapping out the Belle Grove Historic District, which Moncrief says "rivals historic districts nationwide for the number of Victorian homes and the variety of styles."
The house, expanded to its current footprint in 1882 from a pre-Civil War structure, was home to William Henry Harrison Clayton, the prosecutor in "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker's courtroom in the Western District of Arkansas. He and his "Southern belle" wife raised six daughters and a son in the home for 15 years before moving on in 1897, and for most of the 60-plus years until 1969, the Clayton House was a boarding house, as were many of its contemporaries.
"The Clayton House serves as a living history book of the 1880s in Fort Smith," Moncrief says. "It has been a great gift to our community, both with heritage education and as a boost to our tourism economy. From seeing how people lived graciously without electricity or indoor plumbing, to viewing historic craftsmanship in furniture and architecture, it is a rich resource of our heritage preservation."
-- Becca Martin-Brown
NAN What's Up on 05/19/2017
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