Christmas market July 14-15 benefits Clayton House, Bonneville House, Fort Smith Museum of History

Christmas market July 14-15 benefits Clayton House, Bonneville House, Fort Smith Museum of History

Sometimes to showcase something old, you’ve got to try something new. And that’s how Christmas in July was born three years ago.

The three museums that will benefit from this year’s holiday market festival July 14-15 — the Fort Smith Museum of History, the Clayton House and the Bonneville House — preserve Fort Smith’s history clear back to 1910. In fact, says Caroline Speir, executive director, the Fort Smith Museum of History is the oldest continually operating museum in the state of Arkansas.

Fort Smith Museum of History

320 Rogers Ave.

The museum was established in 1910 as the Old Commissary Museum, its website explains, with the purpose of saving the city’s oldest building from demolition, the 1830s Commissary building to the second Fort Smith. That building is now part of the Fort Smith National Historic Site, and in 1979, the museum moved to the Atkinson-Williams Hardware Warehouse — which Speir calls their largest artifact. The collection now numbers approximately 50,000 artifacts chronicling the history of the city and surrounding region, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Clayton House

514 N. Sixth St.

This wood frame antebellum home served from 1882-97 as the family home of William Henry Harrison Clayton, the federal prosecutor in the famed frontier court of Judge Isaac C. Parker, according to its website. Clayton enlarged and renovated the home, originally built in the 1850s, to the Victorian Gothic Italianate style. The house has eight main rooms, each containing an ornate coal-burning fireplace; the original cypress double front doors; a massive and elegant original black walnut staircase; and Victorian-style bay windows. A semi-detached servants’ quarters and kitchen have been reconstructed on the original foundation.

In addition to housing Clayton family artifacts such as the family Bible, W.H.H. Clayton’s walking stick, Mrs. Clayton’s writing desk and tea table, and many photos, the home is complete with ornate, period furniture for every room, thanks to Agnes Oglesby (1874-1979), who donated her estate of Victorian furniture to the museum after the home was restored in the mid-1970s.

The Bonneville House

318 N. Seventh St.

Built in 1868 and occupied by the David McKibben family for 10 years, the home was purchased in 1878 by Sue Neis Bonneville, widow of Gen. Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville, for whom the Bonneville Dam, Bonneville Salt Flats, and the Bonneville Elementary School were named.

Although Gen. Bonneville never lived in this house, Mrs. Bonneville lived here until her death in 1910, and established herself as a leader and the house as a center of social life in Fort Smith, according to the website. Many elegant parties and receptions were held at the Bonneville House.

The house was rescued from decline in 1962 by Melanie Holt Speer and is one of the jewels of the Belle Grove Historic District.



Christmas in July

All of that history comes together for the third time July 14-15 as Christmas in July takes over the Fort Smith Convention Center.

“I’ve decorated for numerous nonprofit fundraisers in Fort Smith, and this will be my third year to decorate for Christmas in July,” says Karen Lewis, who is designing the event. “This year I’m planning on a red and white theme; these are the perfect Christmas colors, bright and happy!”

The two-day soiree includes:

July 14 — V.I.P. party, 6-9:30 p.m., with live and silent auctions, a bracelet raffle, a cork pull, great food and jazz music, plus early-bird shopping with more than 35 vendors. $100.

July 15 — Merry Morning Mimosas, 10 a.m.-noon. $25.

July 15 — General shopping, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $5.

Tickets are available at

Categories: Galleries