The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith received a $678,461 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) to fund Phase V of the Drennen-Scott House project, specifically the restoration of the adjacent Wilhauf House.
"Without ANCRC's support, both of these properties would have likely been lost, and their significance in history forgotten," said Tom Wing, assistant professor and director of the Drennen-Scott Historic Site. "Through ANCRC's generous support, UAFS has been able to benefit heritage tourism in Western Arkansas and, at the same time, educate students of all ages."
The Wilhauf House was initially owned by Leonard Wilhauf, a German immigrant and veteran of the Mexican War. The addition of the Wilhauf House to the Drennen-Scott historic site will not only allow UAFS to offer visitors a glimpse into a working-class home, illustrating the stark disparities between the daily lives of the elite and those on the lower end of the economic scale in the 1800s.
The ANCRC funds announced at the organiztion's June 3 meeting, will be used to install a new mechanical system to allow heating and cooling of the Wilhauf house, construct a new rear entrance stoop with an ADA-compliant ramp, install a new water line connected to the sprinkler system and a new gas line, restore the garage to allow for a public restroom and storage area, construct an entry drive and parking spaces, and improve existing drainage on the grounds.
Further plans for the property include a 19th-century vegetable garden to be kept in partnership with local school districts, archeological research, special events, and public viewing hours.
The Drennen-Scott project was previously awarded more than $1.6 million for Phases I-IV of restoration to the grounds and structures, which restored and rehabilitated the 1838 home of John Drennen and five generations of his family. The site is a nationally significant National Register property with connections to the Trail of Tears, Underground Railroad, Presidents Polk and Taylor, and Texas historical figure Sam Houston.
The restored site serves as a laboratory to train museum professionals and historical interpreters through displays of original family furnishings and artifacts owned by the Historic Arkansas Museum. The site also offers experience in archaeological digs, and historic gardening and horticulture. The project won an excellence award in historic preservation from Preserve Arkansas and was a finalist in the Henry Award at the Governor's Conference on Tourism.
UAFS, the City of Van Buren, and the Western Arkansas region have benefitted from the restorations as well as the dendrochronology and archeological work completed to better understand the site. Since acquiring the site in 2005, and opening it to the public since 2011, visitors from across the world have joined the thousands of River Valley students who have learned about Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas, and their role in American History. The site is a popular landmark for bus tours and school field trips, and onsite facilities are available to facilitate group retreats and workshops. An excursion train that travels from Van Buren to Winslow Arkansas also features a shuttle bus directly to Drennen-Scott during the tourist season.
The UAFS grant is part of $27.3 million distributed by ANCRC to 23 projects that will restore and protect state-owned lands and properties of historical significance.
Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, who serves as secretary of the ANCRC, said, "The ANCRC Trust Fund has funded over $400 million in projects since its first grants were made in 1989. Many well-loved buildings and properties have been saved for future generations by the fund, and we are a better state for it."
ANCRC has funded the restoration and preservation of such iconic properties as the Arkansas State Capitol, Old Main on the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville campus, and the Johnny Cash Home in Dyess.
ANCRC was established by Arkansas Act 729 of 1987. Its grants and trust fund are managed for the acquisition, management, and stewardship of state-owned lands or the preservation of state-owned historic sites, buildings, structures, or objects which the ANCRC determines to be of value for recreation or conservation purposes. The properties are to be used, preserved, and conserved for present and future generations' benefit.