If you live in the Fort Smith area and are looking for a book club with historical leanings, read on.
A Knox Street Book Club begins at the Clayton House Feb. 13 with the review of “A Tour on the Prairies” by Washington Irving. The three-session book review will be led by Marcus Woodward, a teacher of social studies at Fort Smith junior high schools for the past 29 years.
“I like his style,” Woodward (in a press release) says of Irving, the American author, historian, and diplomat best known for the short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.” Born in New York in 1783, Irving accompanied the U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs on a month-long surveying mission into Indian country. The book is regarded as an American West classic, detailing in lively language the scenery, Indians, wildlife and quirky travel companions of Irving’s expedition.
Woodward serves as a historic re-enactor for local history museums, most often helping to educate about the Civil War. Three of his great-grandfathers fought for the Union army in Arkansas. Woodward owns a collection of military uniforms dating from 1817 to 1871 and is a recipient of the Fort Smith Frontier Achievement Award for his contributions to historical development in re-enactments of Fort Smith’s past.
The Knox Street Book Club meets in the Clayton House community room (former servants’ quarters) from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13 and 27 and March 13. As part of the program, there will be refreshments and tours of the historic house museum.
You will need to make a reservation by Jan. 25 to ensure you get a copy of the book the first evening. Reservations may be made online at the Clayton House website, www.claytonhouse.org, by phone at 479-783-3000 or via mail. The Clayton House is located at 514 N. 6th St., Fort Smith, 72901. The cost of the program is $50 or $45 for members of the nonprofit Fort Smith Heritage Foundation.
Program fees support the ongoing preservation and programs of the Clayton House, an Italianate-style mansion which was restored to its 1882 condition in the 1970s. It served as the family home of William H. H. Clayton, U.S. Attorney of Judge Isaac C. Parker’s court.
Standing regally in the Belle Grove Historic District, the Clayton House serves as a living history book of Fort Smith’s elegant Victorian period during the city’s frontier beginnings on the border of Indian Territory.