Image: Clinton speaks in Hope
Adam Sacasa  /  AP
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in the backyard of the house on April 16 in Hope, Ark.
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updated 4/28/2011 3:04:06 PM ET 2011-04-28T19:04:06

Bill Clinton's boyhood home in Hope has been open as a museum for more than a decade, but this is the first year that visitors are seeing the home as part of the National Park Service.

The home became a national historic site at the start of the year, and Clinton said at its formal dedication in mid-April that he wants the home to stand as a reminder of the values he learned as a child.

The home's new designation as a national park site is expected to draw more tourists to Hope, a southwest Arkansas city of about 12,000 with a struggling economy.

The two-story, white, wood-frame home was restored to reflect the style of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the former president lived there. Toys from the period are strewn about one side of the yard and inside is the very couch owned by Clinton's grandparents, Eldridge and Edith Cassidy.

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Clinton's father, William Blythe, was killed in a car accident while his mother, Virginia, was pregnant with Clinton, so she and her new baby moved in with her parents at the comfortable home at 117 S. Hervey St. They lived there for four years, but even after Virginia remarried and moved to another house in Hope, the Hervey Street home remained the center of Bill Clinton's family life. He spent weekends and summers with his grandparents and gathered there with extended family members.

The historic site includes a second building which has been converted into a visitor center. Inside are displays that tell how Eldridge Cassidy served black and white customers at his small grocery store — an uncommon business practice during segregation — and how he'd help families in need with free food and forgiven debts.

Opened by the Clinton Birthplace Foundation in 1997, the museum has had more than 80,000 visitors, including people from 159 countries. Clinton is widely admired abroad, so catering to foreign tourists is a key part of the museum's mission.

Slideshow: America's national parks (on this page)

Local officials say they expect greater numbers of visitors to include Hope on their itineraries as they take in Clinton's presidential library and museum in Little Rock, 110 miles to the northeast. Another museum and former Clinton home is located in Fayetteville in northwest Arkansas, where Clinton lived with Hillary Rodham Clinton while he worked as a law professor at the University of Arkansas. The Clintons were married in the living room.

Clinton explained during the dedication in Hope that the way he was brought up guided him in his lifelong political efforts to ensure opportunity for "ordinary people."

"We here of a certain age were raised to see everyone. My grandfather taught me to see people without regard for the color of their skin," Clinton said, adding that he hopes that "some of the good I got out of being here will be somehow communicated" to visitors.

Clinton spoke about 15 yards from a pink granite monument that dedicates the rose garden on the grounds to his mother, who as a young widow put herself through nursing school in New Orleans while her son stayed behind in Hope.

Standing in the home or the visitor center, museum-goers can get an idea of what it sounded like 60 years ago on the property when the ubiquitous freight trains rumble by. The property is bordered on two sides by train tracks, and the racket from them interrupted Clinton and other speakers during the dedication.

"That may hurt your ears, but it's pretty to me," Clinton said as a long train passed.

The home is three blocks from downtown Hope, a long-neglected area that is showing signs of the start of a recovery with a couple of new eateries to open soon. There is a train station that serves as a city museum, and a short distance down the tracks is another old-style structure that houses an arts center and a small museum devoted to late audio pioneer Paul Klipsch, who started his business in Hope.

But despite its proximity to the Clinton home, many visitors may never see the downtown area, which also has a couple of secondhand stores and small restaurants. Most of the city's motels and restaurants are located on the outskirts of town near Interstate 30, and Exit 30 from the highway takes travelers straight onto Hervey Street, where the Clinton home is located, bypassing downtown.

The foundation that deeded Clinton's first home to the park service owns another home in Hope, the house where the future president lived with his mother and stepfather, Roger Clinton, who was the father of Bill Clinton's brother. The home at 321 E. 13th St. isn't open for tours, but displays are visible through the windows.

The 13th Street home represents a darker chapter of Clinton's time in Hope. His stepfather was prone to drunkenness and once, while his stepson watched, fired a pistol shot through a wall during an argument with Virginia. The family later moved to Hot Springs, where Clinton graduated from high school.

If You Go ...

CLINTON BIRTHPLACE HOME NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE: 117 S. Hervey St., Hope, Ark.; http://www.nps.gov/wicl/ or 870-777-4455. Guided tours every 30 minutes beginning at 9 a.m. with the last tour leaving at 4:30 p.m.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: America's national parks

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  1. Acadia

    Acadia National Park in Maine boasts the highest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Visitors beware: temperatures can vary 40 degrees -- from 45 degrees to 85 degrees in the summer and from 30 degrees to 70 degrees in the spring and fall. (Gareth Mccormack / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rocky Mountain

    Bear Lake, with mountainside aspens changing colors in mid-autumn, is one of the popular attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Badlands

    The climate in South Dakota's Badlands National Park is extreme. Temperatures range from minus 40 degrees in the dead of winter to 116 degrees in the height of summer. Visitors are drawn to the park's rugged beauty as well as the area's rich fossil beds. (Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Yosemite

    One of the nation's first wilderness parks, Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, scenic valleys, meadows and giant sequoias. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. North Cascades National Park

    The North Cascades National Park complex offers something for everyone: Monstrous peaks, deep valleys, hundreds of glaciers and phenominal waterfalls. The complex includes the park, Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Zion

    This spectacular corner of southern Utah is a masterpiece of towering cliffs, deep red canyons, mesas, buttes and massive monoliths. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Redwood

    Created in 1968, Redwood National Park is located in Northern California. Today, visitors to the national park can enjoy the massive trees as well as an array of wildlife. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Joshua Tree

    Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeast California. The area was made a national monument in 1936 and a national park in 1994. Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Great Smoky Mountains

    Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses more than 800 square miles in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Visitors can expect mild winters and hot, humid summers, though temperatures can differ drastically as the park's elevation ranges from 800 feet to more than 6,600 feet. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Arches

    More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, many of them recognizable worldwide, are preserved in Utah's Arches National Park. Temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer and can drop to below freezing in the winter. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Grand Teton

    The Snake River flows through Grand Teton National Park, and the jagged Teton Range rises above the sage-covered valley floor. Daytime temperatures during summer months are frequently in the 70s and 80s, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. (Anthony P. Bolante / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Haleakala

    Visitors watch the sun rise at 10,000 feet in Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii. If weather permits, visitors at the top of the mountain can see three other Hawaiian islands. (The Washington Post via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Grand Canyon

    Grand Canyon National Park is perhaps the most recognizable national park. Nearly 5 million visitors view the mile-deep gorge every year, formed in part by erosion from the Colorado River. The North and South rims are separated by a 10-mile-wide canyon. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, was established in 1872. The park spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk live in the park. It is well known for Old Faithful and other geothermal features. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Mount Rainier

    Glaciers. Rainforests. Hiking trails. Mount Rainier National Park, located in Washington state, offers incredible scenery and a diverse ecology. The park aims to be carbon neutral by 2016. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Hawaii Volcanoes

    Two of the world's most active volcanoes can be found within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In 1980, the national park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve; in 1987, it was added as a World Heritage Site. (David Jordan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Everglades

    Everglades National Park covers the nation's largest subtropical wilderness. It is also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. Visitors to the park can camp, boat, hike and find many other ways to enjoy the outdoors. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Glacier

    A view from atop the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in Glacier National Park. With more than 700 miles of trails the park is known for its glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and beautiful lakes. (Matt McKnight / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Bryce Canyon

    Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its distinctive geological structures called "hoodoos." (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Crater Lake

    The brilliant blue Crater Lake, located in southern Oregon, was formed when Mount Mazama, standing at 12,000 feet, collapsed 7,700 years ago after a massive eruption. Crater Lake is one of the world's deepest lakes at 1,943 feet. (David Gotisha / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Olympic

    Washington state's Olympic National Park offers visitors beaches on the Pacific Ocean, glacier-capped mountain peaks and everything in between. Keep the weather in mind when visiting, though, as roads and facilities can be affected by wind, rain and snow any time of year. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Sequoia and Kings Canyon

    A woman stands among a grove of a Giant Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park in Central California. The trees, which are native to California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, are the world's largest by volume, reaching heights of 275 feet and a ground level girth of 109 feet. The oldest known Giant Sequoia based on its ring count is 3,500 years old. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Denali

    Alaska's Denali National Park spans 6 million acres and includes the 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak. Many park visitors try to catch a glimpse of the "big five" -- moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bear. (National Park Service) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Kenai Fjords National Park

    The National Park Service considers the 8.2-mile round-trip on Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park to be strenuous, saying hikers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with each mile. (National Park Service via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Death Valley

    California's Death Valley encompasses more than 3.3 million acres of desert wilderness. In 1849, a group of gold rush pioneers entered the Valley, thinking it was a shortcut to California. After barely surviving the trek across the area, they named the spot "Death Valley." In the 1880s, native peoples were pushed out by mining companies who sought the riches of gold, silver, and borax. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Wind Cave

    Bison graze in Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. Millions of bison were slaughtered by white hunters who pushed them to near-extinction by the late 1800s. Recovery programs have brought the bison numbers up to nearly 250,000. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Canyonlands

    The Lower Basins Zone is outlined by the white rim edge as seen from the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Shenandoah

    Fall colors blanket the Shenandoah National Park, drawing tourists to Skyline Drive to view the scenery. (Karen Bleier / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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