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WBC Receives Grant for Historic House


The Commandant’s House at Williams Baptist College has moved a big step closer to preservation. The historic structure, known on the WBC campus as the Williams House, has been selected for a $44,000 grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

"This is a very competitive grant, and the fact that we received it says a great deal about the historical significance of the Commandant’s House," said Williams President Jerol Swaim. "Only one in four applicants for this grant received funding, so we are very appreciative."

The grant was officially presented at a recent ceremony in Little Rock by Gov. Mike Beebe. Swaim and Brett Cooper, vice president for college relations, attended the ceremony on behalf of the college.

The structure, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places this year, was originally built in World War II as the base commander’s residence at the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School. Following the war, WBC relocated its campus to the former base, and college founder H.E. Williams lived there with his family for over 50 years.

AHPP Grant Presentation.  Left to Right: Frances McSwain, Director of Arkansas Historic Preservation Program; Jerol Swaim, WBC President; Gov. Mike Beebe; Brett Cooper, WBC Vice President for College Relations; Cathie Matthews, Director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The house is distinguished by its exterior stone walls and by a double-sided, stone fireplace inside. Hardwood floors run through most of the home, and they remain in good condition, according to Swaim.

The president noted that the grant money will be used primarily to seal the home from the elements. A new roof, gables, fascia and soffit are all slated for the Commandant’s House, and it is also hoped that windows and doors can be replaced.

Cooper noted that the AHPP award is a 2-to-1 matching grant, meaning the $44,000 from the state will have to be matched by $22,000. He said over half the matching money has already been committed by donors from the community and other supporters.

"People are excited about preserving the Commandant’s House, and we hope to raise the remainder of the matching money in the next few weeks," Cooper said.

Those who want more information about supporting the preservation effort can contact Cooper at (870) 759-4107 or bcooper@wbcoll.edu.

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