Once dilapidated to the point of near-ruin, today Johnny Cash’s boyhood home is a stunning hidden gem down a dirt road in rural Dyess, Arkansas…

    Johnny Cash Boyhood Home 1

    Sometimes you’re too early, and sometimes you’re too late. This time, we were a couple days too early for the grand opening of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas… For our trip, we’d have to be content just imagining J.R. walking the dirt road to his simple home as we stood outside the freshly renovated tourist gem. Little did we know it was set to open in just a few days after an absolutely remarkable restoration.


    Cash boyhood home14

    Today, if you visit Dyess, AR, start at the Dyess Administration Building to learn about the Dyess Colony, a New Deal settlement that started with just 500 families, including the Cash family then take a guided tour out the dirt road to Johnny Cash’s boyhood home. Unlike our stop, you’ll actually get to tour the home in its restored glory.


    To truly appreciate the house now, you’d have to see how close to ruin it was… After the Cash family moved out in the late 40s, it changed hands multiple times before finally becoming home to the Stegall family for 37 years. During this time, Johnny Cash’s boyhood home had deteriorated badly and was placed on the “Most Endangered List” by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.


    via Arkansas State
    via Arkansas State

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    The “gumbo” soil under the home had left different sections of the house sinking and shifting at different rates, and Stegall’s own modifications to the home were endangering its original style. Thankfully, Arkansas State University came to the rescue and purchased the home from Stegall and began putting together plans to restore the home as part of a larger tourism project for Dyess.

    See the full timeline at http://dyesscash.astate.edu/johnny-cash-boyhood-home
    See the full timeline at http://dyesscash.astate.edu/johnny-cash-boyhood-home
    Plans quickly swung into action to preserve the home while engineers determined the best route forward. They determined the original concrete pillar foundation coupled with the unstable soil made for a risky restoration. Their solution? Pick the house up for a bit, pour a hidden proper foundation, then return the house to the pillars (now with a solid foundation under them):
    Additionally, the concrete piers (used in all the colony houses) proved to be an inadequate foundation, sinking deeper and deeper over the years into the gumbo soil. To correct the problem, the house was moved to the back of the property while a seven-foot pit was dug, the size of the house footprint. This hole was then repacked with eight feet of better draining soil, sloped away from the center to correct the problem with water pooling under the house.
    Meanwhile, supporters were raising money and awareness for the project through the now-annual Johnny Cash Festival at ASU. Highlighted by support of the Cash family, the concerts have become a huge success, and when you see the legendary lineup for the 1st concert, you’ll understand why:
    The first Johnny Cash Music Festival was hosted by Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash and produced by A-State alumnus Bill Carter. Featured performers included Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Gary Morris, Rodney Crowell, Dailey & Vincent, Tommy Cash, Joanne Cash, Laura Cash, Chelsea Crowell, Bill Miller, John Francis, and Denny Strickland. The festival was filmed for a PBS documentary, and a DVD and CD were produced to generate additional interest and income.
    By the 4th annual Johnny Cash Music Festival, enough money had been raised to complete phase I of the project and Rosanne Cash had even stopped by as the house was nearing completion as she traced her father’s musical roots through the south…

    Finally, after years of hard work and dedication, the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home opened on August 16, 2014.

    via Arkansas Matters
    via Arkansas Matters
    via Arkansas Matters
    via Arkansas Matters

    To tour Johnny Cash’s Boyhood Home, both inside and out, head to the Administration Building (110 Center Drive, Dyess, AR 72330) to join the tour…

    Tours run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Sautrday.

    Admission (includes both buildings):

    $10 general admission
    $8 senior rate
    $8 group rate (groups of 10 or more- comp tour operator and bus driver)
    $5 student rate (children 5-18 or with a university ID)
    $5 field trip rate (comp all bus drivers and 1 chaperone per 10 students)
    Free-children under 5 and ASU students