Arkansas State University is working to preserve the heritage of the Dyess Colony by restoring significant buildings that remain from its days as an agricultural resettlement community. The first phase of this plan involved restoring the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, as well as restoring the Administration Building in the Colony Center and stabilizing what remained of the former theatre. Phase Two included re-creating the former theatre and adjacent pop shop for use as a Visitors Center and installing historic signage at locations of previous colony buildings, such as the school, hospital, cannery, cotton gin, and community building. The Colony Circle property has been donated to the project by Gene Williams and the City of Dyess, while the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home was acquired through proceeds from the first annual Johnny Cash Music Festival in 2011.
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
The Cash home, built in 1935, has been restored to its appearance when the Cash family lived there, from 1935 to 1954. It is furnished based on recollections from family members and conveys the lifestyle of the Cash family as typical colonists. Restoration funds have come from proceeds generated by the annual Johnny Cash Music Festival, along with private donations. To view the restoration progress on the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, click here.
The Dyess Colony Administration Building, completed in 1936, has been restored to house the Dyess Colony Museum, along with municipal offices for the City of Dyess. Funding for the restoration was provided primarily through grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, with support from a Challenge Grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Exhibits focus on the history of the Colony, lifestyles of colonists, the Cash family as typical colonists, and the impact of growing up in Dyess on Johnny Cash and his music. To view the restoration progress on the Colony Circle, click here.
Built in 1947 after the original community building burned, the theatre and later adjoining pop shop have been rebuilt as a Visitors Center, including admission to museum and house tours, a gift shop, an orientation film, and other exhibits. Restoration funds came from Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council grants and a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. To view the restoration progress on the Colony Circle, click here.
As funds become available, other phases of the restoration include:
• Recreating the outbuildings at the Cash home (barn, smokehouse, chicken coop, and privy)
• Rebuilding a former colony house adjacent to the Cash house to provide visitor services
• Developing a walking trail between the Colony Circle and the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home