Clinton Presidential Center and Park

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Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is the home of the Clinton Presidential Library, the offices of the Clinton Foundation, and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The library’s museum, which is what most visitors see, exhibits artifacts from the two Clinton presidential terms, including full-scale replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room.

IMG_0568edCriticized by many, the main building, oriented along a north and south axis, is distinctive.

At the very beginning of conceptual discussions, a powerful, symbolic idea emerged. President Clinton and the architects realized that the most striking feature of Little Rock is the six bridges over the Arkansas River. The concept of a bridge-like building was a natural fit with the scenic river view, and just as importantly, as an extension of President Clinton’s ideas about the nation. The structure invokes a tangible physical link between yesterday and tomorrow: a major architectural statement of the 21st century that looks as if it is reaching outward to the other shore and the future. (Clinton Foundation)

The five-story main building has 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, a Great Hall that is used for banquets, meetings, or forums, classrooms, Forty-Two – a full-service restaurant – and a 2,000 square foot penthouse apartment used by Clinton.

The Clinton archives, located in a building south of the main building and connected to it, house both physical documents and electronic information.  The 35,686 cubic feet of records is the most of any presidential library.

The Clinton Presidential Park, about 30 acres, includes an arboretum, amphitheater, a children’s play area, and gardens

Adjacent to the park is William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands, 13 acres of restored wetlands with pedestrian trails, an elevated walkway, two bridges, and interpretive displays.

IMG_0552edChoctaw Station, opened in 1901 by the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (CO&G) is a historic restored red brick train station now housing the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, the Clinton Public Policy Institute, and the Clinton Foundation. The station operated until passenger service on the line halted in November 1967, CO&G coming under control of Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific (the “Rock Island”) in 1902 with formal merger on January 1, 1948. The nearby historic 1899 Choctaw freight station was razed, in a controversial move, as part of the Clinton Center’s development.

Rock Island Railway Bridge, renamed Clinton Park Bridge, has been converted into a pedestrian bridge connecting to North Little Rock. Constructed in about 8 months in 1899, the bridge remained in service until 1980 when the Rock Island went through bankruptcy liquidation with Union Pacific acquiring the bridge, along with other properties.  Ownership was transferred to the city of Little Rock in 2001.  Converted to a ramped pedestrian and bicycle bridge, the bridge completes the IMG_0548ed-without-peopleeastern loop of the Arkansas River Trail, which runs on both banks of the River and makes Little Rock the only city in the country with four pedestrian bridges over a navigable body of water.

Unlike most museums, the Clinton Museum store isn’t in the museum – or even on the property.

For complicated legal reasons having to do with state development funds, the Clinton Presidential Foundation wasn’t allowed to have retail operations on the library property. So the store is in a three-story, red-brick building about a block away in the River Market district of downtown Little Rock.  (Dallas Morning News, November 1, 2004)

The presidential center and park site was previously a run-down warehouse district.  Images below, from 1988 documenting the historic Second Street Bridge, which was demolished during site development of the Clinton Center, show both the Choctaw Station and the Rock Island Railway Bridge, as well as other structures.  Two years after these photos, in 1990,  Spaghetti Warehouse opened a restaurant in the Choctaw Station.  Slow development of downtown Little Rock led to the location closing in 1996.

the choctaw line

Above: A boarded-up Choctaw Station and, in the distance,
the Rock Island Railway Bridge, looking north

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Above: Looking south from the 2nd Street Bridge,
boarded-up Choctaw Station and various warehouses and businesses


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Clinton Presidential Center and Park

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