The University of Arkansas Fort Smith has received a $250,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural Culture Resource Council to continue renovations on a historic property in downtown Van Buren.
Estimated to be the second-oldest house in Van Buren behind the Drennen-Scott House, the Wilhauf House was acquired by the university last year, and UAFS began renovations following a $367,000 grant from the ANCRC. The quarter-million dollar grant will go towards structural work within the house, according to Tom Wing, director of the DSHS.
“We need to go into the oldest part of the house and do some crucial work to maintain its structural integrity while trying to preserve as much of the original material as we can,” Wing said. “Turning a private residence into a public building is tricky, and these funds are much-appreciated as we work towards the house’s restoration efforts.”
The house, located at 109 N. 3rd Street south of the Drennen-Scott Historic Site, marks an expansion effort for the DSHS. Once the house is completed, it will provide additional space for student-created exhibits and student led programming, in addition to housing the university’s Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Station, currently housed on campus.
The house was originally owned by Leonard Wilhauf, a German immigrant who owned a bakery on Main Street. But the land also holds ties to John Drennen, after which the DSHS is named, as it belonged to his original estate. The house is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wing said the grant was a confirmation of the university’s work to preserve local history.
“Receiving funds from the council, who funds projects all of the state of Arkansas, shows they see this house as a solid investment,” Wing said. “We were in competition with several other worthy projects, so we’re pleased that they recognize the university’s track record with the Drennen-Scott Historic Site.”
UAFS acquired the Drennen home, which dates back to the 1800s, and additional acreage in 2005. The Drennen-Scott Historic Site, which opened to the public in May 2011, serves as a museum and educational facility for UAFS.
John Drennen was a founder of Van Buren, politician, Indian agent, landowner and businessman. Charles Scott was Drennen's business partner who married Drennen's eldest daughter. Charles and Caroline Scott inherited control of the estate after Drennen's death in 1855.