Fayetteville commission still undecided on use for historic Walker-Stone House

Photos: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

It remains unclear what the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion commission will do with the historic Walker-Stone House that it purchased last year.

The group had discussed possibly moving the Convention and Visitors Bureau administrative offices from a commission-owned building on the southwest corner of the downtown square into the historic home located one block west at 207 W. Center St.

Executive Director Molly Rawn, who took over the commission in August, said she doesn’t think the historic downtown home should be used as office space.

“I don’t feel like it is a value-add to our organization at all, and I don’t think it helps us move in the direction that we want to go,” Rawn said. “I would strongly encourage us to think creatively about other things we could do that respect the integrity of the house.”

The nearly 6,000-square-foot home 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.

“It’s one of the most important historical buildings in the state of Arkansas, and most certainly in the county,” said Hugh Kincaid, who co-owned the building along with partners David Horne and Bass Trumbo. “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 property last year was appraised at $975,000, but Kincaid and his group offered to sell it to the commission for $750,000 and make a charitable contribution of $225,000 to make up the difference.

Rawn said Monday she’d like to explore the idea of finding a tenant for the house that could benefit the group’s mission, and add to the ecosystem of downtown Fayetteville while bringing in some revenue.

“I think there could be some great synergy there with the right partner,” she said.

Commission chair Matthew Petty said terms of the bargain sale agreement prevent the commission from using the property for purposes that go against its tax-exempt status for two years, meaning the house can’t be sold or leased to a non-tourism-based tenant.

Rawn agreed to explore options and present the commission with her findings in three months.