2006 List

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home

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City/County/Congressional District: Dyess , Mississippi County (District 1 )
Location Class: Residential
Year Built: 1934
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places 2018
Status: Restored

Before Restoration


After Restoration

The Cash family moved to this site as one of 600 families chosen to relocate as part of the Dyess Colony project initiated under the Works Progress Administration. Johnny Cash’s formative years were spent here—picking cotton in the fields with his family, singing hymns with his mother, surviving the 1937 flood, and mourning the death of his older brother. Cash began playing guitar and writing songs early in his life and in high school performed on a local radio station. Many of the themes in Cash’s music can be traced back to his life in Dyess, including the song “Five Feet High and Rising” inspired by the 1937 flood. After Cash left to join the Air Force, he returned to Dyess only once in 1969 while filming a documentary

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home has been occupied by the owner for the past thirty years. Though alterations to the exterior and interior have been extensive, the level of integrity is sufficient for its association with such a notable figure. While the house continues to be occupied, there is little risk of damage from the elements. However, regular maintenance and insensitive alterations have resulted in the loss of some of the historic fabric. The property owner has offered the property for sale, but at a prohibitive cost. Like the Dyess Colony Administration Building, a great opportunity exists for restoring the house to its historical context and capitalizing on its heritage tourism draw to contribute to the economic development of northeast Arkansas.

Arkansas State University purchased the house in 2011 and soon after began planning to restore the appearance during the time when the Cash family occupied the house. The house was lifted off its original site, its “gumbo” soil removed and replaced by compacted fill dirt, and re-sited on its original piers at the original location. Once stabilized, exterior and interior work began to restore the original floor plan, reconstruct windows and openings and recreate railings and porches.

Copious research was done at the National Archives on New Deal documentation. Cash family members also assisted in the restoration process by identifying and verifying drawings, finishings and furniture placement. Meticulous research was combined with creative outreach and fundraising like the Johnny Cash Music Fest, held in Jonesboro.

Because of the hard work of the dedicated project team, the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is an impressive and authentic restoration of a rural Arkansas home with a very special past.