A&P Commission votes to purchase historic Walker-Stone House

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

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to purchase the historic Walker-Stone House.

The house will likely be used as a new event space, and could possibly become home to the Visitors Bureau offices that are currently located inside a commission-owned building on the southwest corner of the downtown square.

The decision to buy the home was first brought up at the group’s April meeting, but didn’t move forward until May when the commission authorized chair Matthew Petty to enter into negotiations with the owners of the house.

At the time, the owners said while they have received offers from potential private buyers, their hope was to find a public use for the house.

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

Hugh Kincaid, who co-owns the building along with partners David Horne and Bass Trumbo, told A&P Commissioners last month 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.”

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.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here,” said Commissioner Tim Freeman, who added that with some minor renovations, the downstairs portions of the building could be used for receptions or weddings.

It’s unclear exactly how the commission plans to pay for the home, but there are some options.

It could be a cash purchase using a portion of the commission’s reserves, which currently total about $1.4 million, said Petty. Or the group could secure a loan to finance the purchase.

“I think there are several local institutions that would love to sell the A&P Commission a loan for this transaction if only because it’d be hard to find a more fiscally healthy account than an agency like us,” said Petty. “We have a dedicated revenue stream, and we could even write a check if the loan went bad.”

There are also some choices to make about the Visitors Bureau’s current building at 21 S. Block Ave.

Petty said a recent appraisal valued the bureau building at $735,000. While it wouldn’t be a clean trade if the commission sold the building, Petty said the event revenue potential at the Walker-Stone House could help make up the difference.

Some commissioners discussed selling the building, while others said it might be wise to keep it and lease all or some of the space to put toward loan payments on the new facility.

Petty said he hopes to have a detailed funding proposal ready in time for next month’s meeting on June 20. That plan, he said, would also include ideas on how to handle the current building, and some preliminary cost estimates for remodeling the Walker-Stone House.

Aside from those unknown details, the group was all in favor of making the purchase.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Hannah Withers. “Investing in historic Fayetteville is important and this is a building I’d like to see stick around. I think we can do that properly.”