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ASU's Arkansas Heritage Sites program receives $350,000 grant for next phase of Dyess Colony Administration Building restoration


The Arkansas Heritage Sites program at Arkansas State University has received a $350,000grant for the next phase of the restoration of the Historic Dyess Colony Administration Building.  The grant was awarded earlier this month by the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC).

This is the third grant awarded to the project by the Council, which administers funds received through the state’s real estate  transfer tax.  Grants from these funds are for projects that protect and maintain state-owned natural areas, historic sites, and outdoor recreation.

The Dyess Colony project received a grant of $337,888 in 2011 to restore the exterior of the Administration Building and stabilize the adjacent remaining theater façade.  A 2012 grant of $262,000 is being utilized for the first phase of the interior restoration of the Administration Building, which includes replacing deteriorated floorjoists, restoration and replacement of flooring, and rough-in for mechanical, electrical and plumbing work. 

The Dyess Colony was established in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program during the Great Depression.   Through this agricultural resettlement project, the federal government provided out-of-work farmers with a 40-acre farmstead and a chance to eventually own their property.  The 500 colonist families selected to participate in the cooperative experiment included Ray and Carrie Cash, who moved to the colony in 1935 with their children, including 3-year-old J.R, who became the international music iconJohnny Cash.

The new grant will continue the interior work on the Administration Building and should complete the first floor restoration.   Once renovated the building will include exhibits on the history of the Dyess Colony, lifestyles of typical colonistfamilies, and the impact of growing up in Dyess on Johnny Cash and his music.  Through a partnership with Arkansas State University, municipal offices for the City of Dyess also will be housed in the building.

“We are grateful to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council for their continuing support of our historic preservation projects,” said Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas Heritage Sites at ASU.  “Already the Dyess Colony and the Johnny Cash home are attracting  national and international tourists, even though nothing is open. These funds will enable us to move that much closer to being able to share the complete story of the colony and the Cash family.”

The Administration Building restoration is part of a larger Johnny CashBoyhood Home Project, which also includes restoring his boyhood home, rebuilding the theater in the Colony Center as an orientation center for visitors, re-creating the Cash family farmstead buildings, and providing related visitor services. 

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