- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

LITTLE ROCK Preservationists want the foundation spearheading the Clinton Presidential Library to restore a 102-year-old railroad building rather than allow the city to tear it down.
As things stand, when the city clears the land for the 27-acre park and library complex, it will demolish the Choctaw Freight Building, one of the few surviving brick stations left in Arkansas.
Gregory Ferguson, a North Little Rock lawyer, leads an effort to save the structure, but time apparently is running out.
Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter said recently plans were definitely set to destroy the depot unless the Clinton Foundation or the former president himself ordered a revision of the project plans.
Skip Rutherford, a close Clinton family friend who heads the foundation, was not available for comment over the weekend but has been quoted on several occasions as saying he felt the land belonged to the city and the city should have the right to determine how it was used.
"If they wanted to reconsider," said Mr. Carpenter, "we could, but I have been told that the plans have been finalized and it is too late to change them."
Gene Pfeifer, the former owner of the property, has a pending lawsuit against the city challenging the city's eminent domain proceedings, and says he would save the structure if he wins his legal case, which should be heard later this month.
"It's a historic building," he said, "a beautiful structure."
"Many cities would love to have such a building," said Jim Deaver, a local architect. "I would think some of them might even buy it, move it and then reassemble it. Some day, we will be sorry we lost it."
Mr. Ferguson calls the old freight terminal "an incredible building."
"It's in pristine condition," he said, "a building in a building and truly a jewel for the city."
Thanks to preservationists two generations ago, a larger, metal warehouse was built around the depot just after World War II and the brick and most of the depot's glass windows remain unharmed.
The building is the freight counterpart to the Choctaw passenger station, which the Clinton Foundation and the city plan to restore to become part of an educational facility for the presidential library.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center will be located within a new 27-acre city park along the south bank of the Arkansas River here replacing an industrial site of old warehouses and vacant space. It will provide access to a revitalized riverfront as well as a connection to downtown. An abandoned Rock Island Railroad bridge will be refurbished as a pedestrian crossing.
"You can't save every building," said a caller to a local radio talk show last week. "Remember, they are going to save the main Choctaw passenger depot and that was far more important than the freight-handling station."

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