The Drennen-Scott Historic Site owned by the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith has acquired two properties in downtown Van Buren in an expansion effort that will create additional exhibit space, office space and parking lots for the site.
UAFS acquired the Wilhauf House, located at 109 N. Third St. south of the DSHS, in addition to a property north of the Drennen-Scott House that will be used to create additional parking for the DSHS.
The Wilhauf House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Arkansas Natural Cultural Resource Council approved a $367,000 grant May 6 to renovate the Wilhauf House after Tom Wing, DSHS director and assistant professor of history at UAFS, requested the grant. Also attending in a show of support were Rusty Myers, representing Van Buren Original; Jackie Krutsch, executive director of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce; and Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman.
"The fact that we were funded shows we have a project of great historical and local value. Grants like this aren’t guaranteed, and there were some good projects that didn’t get funded," Wing said. "I think the council considered our track record with the Drennen-Scott House, and the support of Mayor Freeman, Rusty Myers and Jackie Krutch played a big role as well."
Wing said the Wilhauf House was a natural acquisition for the DSHS, with the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places and estimated to be the second-oldest house in Van Buren.
The house was originally owned by Leonard Wilhauf, a German immigrant who owned a bakery on Main Street. But the land also holds ties to John Drennen, after which the DSHS is named, as it belonged to his original estate.
"It was land owned by John Drennen, and it’s a property we’ve been interested in for quite some time," Wing said. "It’s a historic property, and we’re looking forward to preserving it, renovating it, and making it available to the public."
Similar to the Drennen-Scott House, the Wilhauf House will be renovated to provide additional space for student-created exhibits and student-led programming. Additionally, it will house the Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Station, currently housed in the Echols Building of the main campus.
Freeman pointed to the university’s historical preservation efforts as an invaluable contribution to Van Buren.
"To take the Drennen-Scott House and preserve it and make it available for the general public, that’s just fantastic. That’s our heritage here in the community," he said. "I was more than honored to do whatever was needed to support the expansion of the DSHS. I know the positive impact it’s going to have on Van Buren and what the university will be able to do with this structure."
Krutch stressed the importance of the expansion to Van Buren.
"The expansion of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus here in Van Buren is an exciting addition, not only for the growth and development of downtown Van Buren, but for the entire region," Krutch said. "The improved property will coincide with the efforts of the City of Van Buren and the Van Buren Original organization to invigorate the downtown footprint. It is an enhancement of one more property to an already unique city sitting on the Arkansas River at the edge of the Western Frontier."
UAFS acquired the Drennen home, which dates back to the 1800s, and additional acreage in 2005. The Drennen-Scott Historic Site, which opened to the public in May 2011, serves as a museum and educational facility for UAFS.
John Drennen was a founder of Van Buren, politician, Indian agent, landowner and businessman. Charles Scott was Drennen’s business partner who married Drennen’s eldest daughter. Charles and Caroline Scott inherited control of the estate after Drennen’s death in 1855.