Beebe Joins Crowd to Preview Newly Restored Kays House
JONESBORO – Former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and former Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe joined a crowd of donors and guests for a preview reception at the newly restored Historic V.C. Kays House Thursday afternoon. The house is located at 2506 Aggie Road on the Arkansas State University campus.
The Tudor-style house includes the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Office and will eventually host exhibits related to President Kays, Senator Hattie Caraway of Jonesboro and the early years of the university. Additionally, a re-creation of the gubernatorial office when Beebe was the 45th governor of Arkansas from 2007-15 is on the first floor.
Restoration work has been completed utilizing three Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) grants totaling $400,000, along with private donations from alumni, faculty, and friends that total almost $200,000. The Rotary Club of Jonesboro also contributed a $5,000 gift. An additional grant of $88,000 by ANCRC was awarded in May 2017 to complete the renovations.
Renovations funded through the grant include electrical and HVAC work, wiring for data, telecommunications and security, the construction of an ADA-compliant restroom, and finally, refinishing the floor of the residence.
In May 2014, the Kays House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the first structure on the Arkansas State campus to be listed in the register. It is one of the three oldest structures on the A-State campus.
The house was built in 1936 as the residence of Victor Cicero (V.C.) Kays who was first president of Arkansas State University and his wife, the former Bertie Hale of Paragould. It is one of A-State’s Heritage Sites along with the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, Lakeport Plantation, Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center and Arkansas State University Museum.
The Heritage Sites Office, established in 1999, develops and operates historic properties of regional and national significance in the Arkansas Delta. These sites provide educational resources for formal and informal learning, including serving as living laboratories for students in the university’s Heritage Studies Ph.D. program. In addition, they serve as economic catalysts in communities where they are located by attracting heritage tourists from around the country.
It actually began in 1997 as a university project to work with community leaders, and volunteers in an eight-county region (Clay, Craighead, Cross, Greene, Lee, Phillips, Poinsett and St. Francis counties) to establish and develop a route along Crowley’s Ridge as a National Scenic Byway. The goal was to promote the natural and cultural heritage in the region, thus serving as an economic catalyst for communities and providing an educational laboratory for students at Arkansas State and throughout the region.
Recognition of the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway as a National Scenic Byway in 1998 led to developing other projects along Crowley’s Ridge.