- The Washington Times - Friday, December 25, 2015

Former President Bill Clinton’s childhood home in Arkansas caught on fire early Friday morning in what Hope fire officials suspect is arson.

The William J. Clinton Birthplace, located at 117 S. Hervey St., was owned by Mr. Clinton’s grandparents and is now maintained by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.

“There’s just evidence and signs that we do believe it was intentionally set,” Hope Fire Department Chief Dale Glanton told KSLA-TV. “It will be investigated and handled as a potential arson fire.”

The fire began at 3:20 a.m. Friday and is under investigation, but arson is suspected, said Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson, CBS News reported.

Chief Wilson said there was a “strong odor of accelerant,” and there was graffiti on the sidewalk leading up to the door of the house, KSLA-TV reported. The graffiti was of the No. 55, and a frowning face with X’s for eyes and a tongue sticking out.

“While the intended message isn’t necessarily known, 55 can mean ‘ha ha’ in texting shorthand,” the station’s report said.

The historic home suffered extensive damage, but other buildings on the property, including a gift shop, weren’t affected.

Mr. Clinton was born at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope and then lived at his grandparents’ home until he was 4 years old. Over the years, the hospital was demolished.

The National Park Service’s website describes the inside of Mr. Clinton’s childhood home, which was built in 1917: “The restored interior still has much of its original detail, including the staircase in the living room, with its turned balusters and massive, paneled newel post. A small pantry features built-in cupboards. Virtually all of the second floor finishes are original, including the flooring and the beaded board in the hallway and nursery.”

Federal officials are en route to Hope to help with the investigation, Chief Glanton said.

• Maria Stainer can be reached at mstainer@washingtontimes.com.

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