Clinton Wedding House
Regardless of one's political leanings, the Clinton House Museum -- a tourist attraction open to the public since 2010 -- offers a feel-good vibe of youthful optimism. It was bought for $17,500 with $3,000 down by future President Bill Clinton as a way to persuade future First Lady Hillary Clinton to marry him (She'd refused his earlier proposal, but the house won her over).
They were young and poor, and the modest Tudor stone and brick home had just one bedroom and one bathroom.
According to an exhibit inside the house, the man who sold it to the Clintons described them as "a couple of hippie law students."
What makes the house extra special is that the Clintons were married in the living room, on October 11, 1975. The spot, next to a large window, holds a glass case that displays a reproduction of Hillary's wedding dress -- a retro-frock midway in fashion history between Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. Hillary, according to the exhibit, didn't even want a wedding dress, but her mom dragged her to the only store that was still open the night before the nuptials, and they quickly bought this one for $53 (the receipt is also on display).
Wedding photos, mostly of snapshot quality, reveal an attractive bride and groom with lots of 1970s hair. The best snapshot has been reproduced on a bronze plaque next to the front door, announcing that the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of the rooms are devoted to exhibits detailing Bill's political ups and downs during the brief time that he and Hillary -- who was not yet a public figure -- lived in the house. Old publicity photos show Bill weighing a plucked chicken at a local poultry fair, congratulating the Queen of the Tontitown Grape Festival, and wearing a hat that appears to be made from the head of a dead pig (an Arkansas razorback).
A loop of Bill's early campaign commercials plays on a video monitor -- and they so mesmerized the former President when he visited, said museum director Kate Johnson, that he asked for a copy of the DVD.
Kate also took delight in pointing out to us the haphazard tilework around the fireplace, mortared in place by Bill as a home handyman project, an effort that convinced him to never attempt anything like it again. The Clintons didn't have long to enjoy it; they moved out of the house at the end of 1976 when Bill was elected Attorney General of Arkansas.
The small gift shop sells memorabilia of more recent vintage: leftover Hillary for President 2008 signs; "I Miss Bill" coffee mugs, license plates, and t-shirts; Bill and Hillary dolls and bobbleheads; and photos of Sox the cat autographed with a paw print
An unexpected highlight of the house is the Bill and Hillary Clinton bathroom. It's a working lavatory, the only one in the house, used by the staff, by visitors if needed -- and by a future Chief Executive and Secretary of State.
For those who seek an intimate bond between themselves and the power couple, it's an opportunity that's tough to pass up, and unique among presidential residences. Just try using a Commander in Chief commode anywhere else -- say, the outhouse at Mount Vernon -- and you're likely to get tasered.