Last month, the day after our 49th anniversary, my wife and I closed the deal on our new dwelling place. Biblically speaking, this is the beginning of our Jubilee year, after seven periods of seven years each. The 50th is a year of freedom, new beginnings and forgiveness of all that is past. We call our place “Jubilee House” as most houses here in Washington, Arkansas have a name. Maybe we will put a sign out front saying “Private Residence of the Fords—JUBILEE HOUSE—c. 1918.” I doubt if we will actually do that, but it’s tempting.
The main reason we estimate the building of this place as 1918 is this: At the Southwest Arkansas Archives there is a photograph of author Claud Garner, who built the place, standing beside the garage with a “Tin Lizzy” parked in it. Another reason is that the man we bought the house from said it was built around 1918. Anyway, what I wanted to say here about Jubilee House concerns its location in Washington.
The place is next door to the old Methodist Church, across the road from the 1874 court house, in front of the old jail and next door on the other side to Pioneer Washington Foundation. These buildings that have us hemmed in tell a story of what makes America great.
Contrary to some thinking, for example, we are a Christian nation. The church next door bears witness to the perseverance of that institution locally, both in structure and in the body of staunch believers that worship there. The court house across the street, though it has become a museum and a visitor’s center, bespeaks a people with a strong sense of justice. The civic business that took place there until the county seat moved to nearby Hope (with the railroad) demonstrates unrelenting traits of fairness and legality stamped on the souls of citizens who came before us. The jail behind us has long since become a bed and breakfast…wait a minute, that is what jails are anyway, right, bed and breakfasts. That facility carried out the sentences given at the court house. The Pioneer Washington Foundation is dedicated to the preservation of the best of our humble local history.
So, those four entities that surround us are bastions of just what the scriptures say God wants of his people: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
The whole of Washington, Arkansas is on the National Register of Historic Places. The State Park here is unique in that it mixes historic structures with normal citizens. Dare I call myself normal? Yes, I dare. So, here we sit, surrounded by historical representatives of what makes America great. It is enough to make one feel a little patriotic.
We want to dedicate our lives here at Jubilee House to the principles that surround us—Godliness, justice, mercy and historic preservation. Not only that, but the best place to experience the Jonquil Festival is from our front porch!