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Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding: Making Bill Clinton Long for Arkansas?

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Is Chelsea Clinton’s wedding making Bill Clinton nostalgic?

Maybe so.

According to Kate Johnson, director of the Clinton House Museum in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the former president plans an August visit to the house where he and Hillary Rodham married and first lived as a couple in 1975.

Clinton will combine the visit with a trip to northwest Arkansas for the dedication of a courtyard at the University of Arkansas in honor of his friend, law school Dean Richard Atkinson, who died in 2005. The former president is also scheduled to attend a breakfast and luncheon while in Arkansas, Johnson said.

Johnson said specific plans for a visit to his former house are up in the air until after Chelsea’s wedding.

In May 1975, Bill Clinton was driving his future wife and secretary of state to the airport when the couple passed the 1930s English-style house on California Street, about half a mile from the university campus. She said she liked the house where Gilbert and Roberta Fulbright Swanson once lived. Roberta Swanson was Arkansas Sen. William J. Fulbright’s younger sister. Gilbert Swanson invented the famous chicken pot pie and frozen TV dinners.

When Hillary returned from the East Coast that June, Bill Clinton told her that he had bought her dream house. They married in the house that October.

Unlike Chelsea’s grand wedding, Bill and Hillary invited only a small group of friends and family. Their friends Morris and Ann Henry hosted a reception. Bill and Hillary lived in the house for the first year of their marriage. In 1976, Bill Clinton became the state’s attorney general and the couple moved to Little Rock.

The cozy 1,800-square-foot house, which is on the National Register of Historic places and now a museum, is experiencing an uptick in visitors, thanks to Chelsea’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky this Saturday.

“We have about 200 people a month who come to visit,” Johnson told Politics Daily. “You never know where they will be from. Yesterday, we had people from Egypt. That was the first time we had had visitors from Egypt. During the Wal-Mart shareholder meeting it was single file through here. It’s amazing how many foreigners want to come here to see the home.”

The museum features a replica of Hillary’s Victorian-style Jessica McClintock wedding dress that she bought the night before her wedding. Johnson says the future first lady and Cabinet secretary paid $53 for it.

The Clinton Museum House is going full speed in making the site a must-see destination for Clinton addicts. The house is part of the state’s “Billgrimage,” which also includes Clinton’s birthplace home in Hope, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Old State House museum in Little Rock where he announced his candidacy for president, and a YMCA in Hot Springs, where Clinton’s high school jazz trio, The Three Kings, once played.

In early August, the Fayetteville City Council will vote on a proposal to change the name of the street in front of Bill and Hillary’s wedding home from California Street to Clinton Boulevard. This will make the house, which sits amid homes and apartment complexes for college students, easier to find.

The city’s advertising and promotion commission manages the non-profit house, which is owned by the University of Arkansas, with tax revenue from hotels and restaurants.

Some FOBs think that the state should assist with the house, especially since it is where Hillary, a political star in her own right, began her life with Bill.

“The Clinton House Museum in Fayetteville should be an Arkansas State Historic Site,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock and a longtime FOB. “While it is now on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the place where President Clinton and Secretary Clinton married and lived. Arkansas does not have a state historic site or park honoring these two remarkable people, and it needs to. In fact, it is way overdue.”

Currently, the museum is landscaping a “First Ladies’ Garden” featuring favorite flowers of the country’s 44 first ladies. Hillary’s favorite? Hydrangea. Daffodils are a close second.

When Hillary lived in the house, Johnson said, she planted daffodils along the front lawn’s retainer wall that still bloom each spring.

“Tourists can still see them if they come in March.”

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Written by suziparker1313

March 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm

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