Fayetteville A&P looks to buy historic Walker-Stone House

Walker-Stone House / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission will soon consider purchasing the historic Walker-Stone House as a possible new event space for the group.

The building, which has for years been home to several law offices, is currently for sale. The owners said while they have received offers from potential private buyers, their hope is to find a public use for the house.

Hugh Kincaid, who co-owns the building along with partners David Horne and Bass Trumbo, told A&P Commissioners on Monday that the property was recently appraised at $975,000, but said his group would sell it to the commission for $750,000 and would make a charitable contribution of $225,000 to make up the difference.

“It’s one of the most important historical buildings in the state of Arkansas, and most certainly in the county,” said Kincaid. “I can’t tell you how many school children and visitors I’ve toured through that house over the years. It represents an important part of Fayetteville’s history.”

Hugh Kincaid, a co-owner of the Walker-Stone House, speaks to Fayetteville A&P Commissioners during the group’s regular meeting in April.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

The nearly 6,000-square-foot house, located one block west of the downtown square at 207 W. Center St., was built in the late 1840s by Judge David Walker, an early settler of the city who became one of the first justices on the state Supreme Court. The house was later sold to the family of local merchant Stephen K. Stone, where it stayed through most of its history. It was hit by a Confederate cannonball during the Civil War, but was restored and eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kincaid said the home was once the center of social activity in Fayetteville, primarily in its early years when it hosted visiting dignitaries like Albert Pike and Sam Houston.

He compared the house to Little Rock’s historic Curran Hall, an 1840s-era house that was owned by several important Arkansas families before being purchased by the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission. It was restored and eventually became Little Rock’s first official visitor information center in 2002.

Fayetteville commissioners said the house could be used in a number of ways, such as an event or museum space. The second-floor offices, they said, could possibly become the new home for the Visitors Bureau, which is currently located inside a commission-owned building at 21 S. Block Ave. on the downtown square.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here,” said Commissioner Tim Freeman, who added that with some minor renovations, the building could be used for receptions or weddings. “It could be a great space for that sort of thing. It’s a nice, historical house and it would be good to keep it in the public’s hands.”

The group on Monday authorized chair Matthew Petty to enter into negotiations with Kincaid to draft an agreement for future consideration. Petty stressed that the deal is far from done, and would be contingent upon several things, including the commission’s acceptance of a feasibility study that would examine revenue potential and overall usage of the property.

The study, Petty said, will help determine how the commission pays for the property, whether it be with cash from the commission’s investment account or through a bank loan.

Other factors, such as a third-party appraisal and inspection of the home would eventually come into play.

It’s unclear what the commission would do with its current space on the square if the Visitors Bureau were moved into the Walker-Stone House. Some commissioners discussed selling the building, while others said it might be wise to lease some of the offices and keep the visitors center and gift shop on the square.

“We clearly have a lot of options,” said Petty. “And we should consider them all.”

Kincaid said the commission would need to act quickly on its decision. He said a medical issue with one of his partners requires that the house be sold as soon as possible.

Petty said he would work with Vince Chadick, the commission’s attorney, to investigate all of the group’s choices before calling a special meeting for further discussion sometime in the next few weeks.