Chaffee Crossing Museum District To Open

The new Chaffee Crossing museum district, consisting of three places of exhibitions, will open at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 15 in Fort Smith. The morning ceremony will take place at Building 803, the locale where Pvt. Elvis Presley got his first military haircut.

Located on the former Ft. Chaffee Army base property, the Fort Chaffee Barbershop Museum contains a replica barbershop restored with items authentic to the period, from bathroom fixtures to the barber pole. The barbershop takes up the front portion of the building and includes a life-size cutout of Presley in his uniform in the barber chair. The back portion of the building contains some Elvis memorabilia, such as the script from the “King Creole” movie he finished filming the day before he was inducted, and original photos.

“This will not be an Elvis museum like you see at Graceland,” explained Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority. The museum will also reflect the history of Ft. Chaffee through exhibits from the ‘40s and ‘50s, as well as items specific to the time Presley was there. For more information, phone 479-769-0402.

The museum district will be open on Mondays and Fridays and by appointment. The two other museums opening in the district are the Vietnam Veterans Museum and the Enchanted Doll Museum.

The Vietnam Veterans Museum contains Vietnam War memorabilia such as helmets, uniforms, guns, documents, love letters and other Vietnam-related items collected over many years. It is also home to the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 467. For more information on this museum, phone 479-478-0110. The Vietnam traveling exhibit “The Wall that Heals” will be at Chaffee Crossing on Oct. 17-19, Owen added. It is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A 1,500-square-foot museum of about 5,000 dolls, the Enchanted Doll Museum contains a life-size Ken and Barbie as well as antique dolls, including Madam Alexander, Effanbee, Kewpie, Betsy Wetsy, Cabbage Patch Kids, Annie and Gerber brands.

“Gone With the Wind and Shirley Temple are my favorites,” said Owner Mary Merechka of Van Buren. “I have doll furniture. I have everything. I would rather share it with everyone.” In fact, Merechka has too much to fit in the museum all at once, so she will rotate the dolls on exhibit throughout the year. “I guess I’m a kid at heart,” she added. “Everything reminds me of something or a happy time in my life.”

“I’ve already had calls for [group] tours,” Merechka said. For more information on this museum, phone 479-478-0225 or visit Adjacent to the doll museum, Merechka also owns The Enchanted Wedding Chapel. She plans to open a bridal studio/lounge soon. Also at Chaffee Crossing, she has as the Enchanted Park for outdoor weddings and the Fantasies at the Fort Reception Hall. Celebrations of Fort Smith is a party rental and sales venue.

The museum district is located at Chaffee Crossing, a 7,000-acre resource being created as a recreational, residential, commercial and industrial development in Fort Smith and Barling, AR. Owen said he sees the planned development as similar to The Woodlands in Houston.

“It’s a community to work, live and play in,” said Owen. “It will be its own community, but it will be part of Fort Smith.” Under construction are 286 homes. “We also have two new churches that are locating out here.” Groundbreakings have also taken place for PRADCO, which makes fishing lures, and Umarex, which manufactures high-end air rifles. “It’s just the place to be,” Owen said.

Chaffee Crossing currently contains recreational opportunities such as the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, which sits on 170 acres overlooking Wells Lake. The area is accessible for fishing, hiking and other outdoor recreation. There are miles of biking and jogging trails and the nine-hole Deer Trails Fort Chaffee Golf Course. Several natural and historical sites provide prime locations for family activities such as picnics and get-togethers.

“Who would have thought that people would come to Ft. Chaffee as a tourist?” Owen asked.

For more information about Chaffee Crossing, phone 479-452-4554 and visit
Source: Google / Updated: Aug 10, 2008 
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