The National Park Service operates dozens of historic places that explore the lives and contributions of many of our U.S. Presidents. They range from homes where future presidents lived as children to memorials that honor their memories after their deaths.
Little Billy Clinton (originally named Blythe until he was adopted by his stepfather) spent the first four years of his life in a white frame house at 117 South Hervey Street in Hope, Arkansas. His widowed mother Virginia left town shortly after he was born to attend nursing school, so the young boy was left in the care of his grandparents, who ran a small grocery store. At a time when the southern U.S. was racially segregated, his grandparents served people of all races, a memory that Clinton says shaped his broad view on race relations and social justice.
The 2½-story home – built in 1917 in a quiet residential neighborhood of Hope – was designed in the “American foursquare” style, so called because of its square floor plan. Its interior has been restored in recent years and although the furnishings inside the house aren’t original, they were carefully chosen to evoke the 1940s, when Clinton lived there. The first floor includes a living room, dining room and kitchen; upstairs are three bedrooms.
Little Billy’s bedroom with its cowboy-themed bedspread overlooks the nearby railroad tracks. Billy loved playing cowboy games with the neighborhood children, many of whom remained friends well into the future president’s White House years.
Today, National Park Service rangers offer guided tours of the home upon request. (Their schedule changes often, so it’s best to call 870-4455 for accurate tour times.) The park also operates a Visitor Center next door to the home, where guests can tour interpretive exhibits focusing on the life of the 42nd president. JNPA operates a gift shop there that features books and other products that interpret his life as well as fair-trade craft products from around the world, upon the request of the former president.
President Clinton credits his early days in his childhood home for many of the important life lessons that later defined his presidency and his leadership as a global statesman. As he frequently says, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”
We’re guessing you wouldn’t expect to tour the boyhood home of a U.S. president in Japan. But you can (sort of). Eccentric Japanese businessman Takeharu Shiraishi, an admirer of Bill Clinton, built an exact replica of the president’s birthplace home on the grounds of a private golf resort. This was in 2000, just as the 42nd president was arriving in Okinawa for the G-8 Summit. Clinton apparently never toured the building, though he later met Mr. Shiraishi.
The modest two-story house features the same white clapboard siding and green trim as its authentic counterpart in Arkansas. It is even furnished much like the original, with period-appropriate furniture and antique appliances purchased in the U.S. The home originally functioned as a tourist attraction then was later repurposed as a daycare center. It has reportedly fallen into disrepair, unlike the real thing in Arkansas.
So if you’re interested in experiencing the ACTUAL birthplace home of Bill Clinton, we suggest you take a trip to Hope. National Park Service rangers give tours every 45 minutes Sunday through Friday. You can also explore exhibits at the park Visitor Center and, of course, stop in at JNPA’s gift shop. A virtual tour of the home is also available for non-travelers, as is our online store.
The theme of Friday’s concert is Songs of Freedom, Stories from the Civil Rights Movement. It’s fitting that the musicians will be performing these selections at Central High, since it served as the frontline of America’s school desegregation battles in the 1950s.
The 19-member Jazz Ambassadors have received widespread acclaim at home and abroad, earning the ensemble the title “America’s Big Band.” The musicians have performed in all 50 states and overseas. Their stop in Little Rock is part of their Summer 2022 tour. Check out the clip below to hear a snippet of their musical style.
The Songs of Freedom concert will take place outdoors on the park grounds on Friday, June 24 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site at (501) 374-1957.
The National Park Service system currently includes 423 sites throughout the United States and its territories. These range from national monuments and battlefields to national historic sites and recreation areas to national rivers and seashores.
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t visited the majority of these places (most of us haven’t!). But luckily, National Park Week is just around the corner – a perfect time to add to your NPS “life list.”
National Park Week is an annual celebration jointly hosted by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to encourage everyone to discover our nation’s diverse historic, natural, and cultural treasures. This year, the week runs from April 16 through 24. Parks across the country will host a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences, including National Junior Ranger Day for kids on Saturday April 23. You can find out more about programs and themes you might be interested in by going here.
Another bonus for park visitors during National Park Week – entrance fees are waived at all parks on Saturday April 16. (Other 2022 free fee days can be found here). Luckily, there are never entry fees at JNPA’s partner parks but each of them would be glad to see you in April, or any time!
You may not be familiar with the name Elizabeth Eckford, but at age 15 she became an unwitting participant in the historic battle to integrate America’s public schools by seeking to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. We think it is fitting to honor Eckford on this first day of Women’s History Month.
In 1957, several years after the Supreme Court mandated school integration, a group of nine African American teenagers sought to attend school at the formerly all-white Central High. They were met by angry mobs opposing integration who taunted and threatened them.
While eight of the teens tried to enter the school as a group on September 4, Eckford wasn’t among them. She had gotten off the bus alone after a mix-up in the students’ planned meeting place. As a result, she was forced to endure the protesters’ obscenities and chants of “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate” all by herself. She made her way to a bench at the end of the block after trying to enter the campus twice.
She and the remaining Little Rock Nine were eventually removed by the police, fearing for their safety. They were only admitted to the school weeks later, after President Dwight Eisenhower mobilized the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort them into the school. Many of the Nine – including Eckford – left Central High School after that first year to attend other schools.
In 2018, a commemorative bench was erected near the Central High School campus as a reminder of Eckford’s struggles in 1957. She has received many other prestigious awards including the Congressional Gold Medal, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and the Humanitarian Award presented by the National Conference for Community and Justice. Eckford herself remains a strong proponent of tolerance in every aspect of life.
JNPA sells numerous publications that relate the story of the Little Rock Nine at the national park’s bookstore and online, including Remember Little Rock which features Elizabeth Eckford on the cover.
Gateway Arch National Park is a memorial to President Thomas Jefferson and his role in greatly expanding the borders of the United States.
JNPA greatly respects Jefferson’s accomplishments, as evidenced by the many books and statues we sell at The Arch Store. But we also sell a few more whimsical items that still honor our third president, like this stately bobblehead and mini-building block set. (We trust Mr. Jefferson doesn’t object to our…ahem…taking “liberties” with his likeness.)
President Bill Clinton spent his early boyhood years in a comfortable two-story frame house in Hope, Arkansas, an experience that he says helped develop his broad views on race relations, social justice, and public service. Our book on Clinton’s early life features numerous photos of the home as well as of the young future president.
If it’s President Ulysses S. Grant you’re interested in, JNPA offers numerous items commemorating both Grant and his wife Julia. From books to sturdy mugs to fun kids’ products, there’s something for everyone. And don’t forget our popular bobblehead version of our 18th president.