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Project Profile:  Restoration of the


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Dates on the calendar serve to remind us of important events of the past, present and future—and then if we allow them to, they also stir us to further contemplate the passage of time itself, the pace of which seems to quicken as we get older.  Good or bad, right or wrong, we are all forced to ponder the fact that everything seems temporary—but we sure don’t want it to be.   So we all really, really, value our memories.  I think at least Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard would agree with this when they expressed themselves singing “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” recently.   Witness it here.


This Friday, Feb. 26th, legendary musician and native Arkansan, Johnny Cash would have been 84 years old.   He was born in south Arkansas, in Kingsland, but at the age of three, moved to the newly built, federally funded resettlement community originally called “Colonization Project No. 1”, later referred to as the Dyess Colony, located in Mississippi County in northeast Arkansas.   At the time of the move, in 1935, the brand new house they would occupy, paint still fresh, was one of hundreds built along with administration and community buildings.   Just a few years ago, I was fortunate to have been involved in the restoration of the very house that “J.R." (as he was known then), grew up in.   The house itself, in absolute terrible condition, would not likely have survived much longer had it not been for the vision, persistence & courage of Ruth Hawkins and Arkansas State University.   She, along with Paula Miles and numerous, dedicated others at ASU, pushed forward and were successful in purchasing the home, having it stabilized, then restored along side the rehabilitation of two other historic structures in the heart of Dyess—the Administration Building and Theatre.


The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, now open to visitors, benefitted enormously from the support of Johnny’s daughter, Rosanne Cash, and his youngest brother and sister, Tommy and Joanne; all three of them very talented musicians in their own right, as you might imagine.   I remember walking through the house prior to its restoration with Joanne—a well known gospel singer, seeing it for the first time in decades, was overwhelmed with memories & emotion.   As she walked into the kitchen, without warning she began singing a hymn, a song that was in her memory—one that her mother, Carrie Cash was singing herself while she stood at the kitchen sink watching young J.R. climb a cottonwood tree.   I was there, along with ASU, and Joanne’s entourage—and I can promise you there wasn’t a dry eye in that place.   It was an incredible moment.   There wasn’t much of that cottonwood tree anymore—but a new one was planted right where the old one was—outside the kitchen window.


If you haven’t seen it, and you are a fan of Johnny Cash (frankly I have yet to meet anyone who does not respect the enormous talent and influence Cash had on musicians worldwide), I encourage you to see the house.   You might get lucky—  Joanne herself has been known to volunteer as a tour guide.  In the meantime, enjoy these before and after photos.   We are extremely proud of our involvement in the restoration of such an important place—and equally proud of our efforts to create new ones.


Please note:  All images © 2010 Ken West Photography and Allison Architects.

Any form of reproduction of an image (including copying, saving, or manipulating saved image files) is not allowed.

February 24, 2016

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home

Restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home At A Glance:


Project Location:  Dyess, Arkansas


Structural Engineer - ECI


Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineers - Petit & Petit Consulting Engineers, Inc.


Contractor:  KMC Construction


Construction Completed:  Summer 2013

 Aaron  Ruby, AIA, LEED AP


Aaron recently merged the firm he founded, Ruby Architects, with Allison Architects in the summer of 2014.  Aaron has been active in the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures in Arkansas since graduating from the UofA in 1997.  He is a committed volunteer, serving on both preservation and design related groups, as well as serving as a volunteer firefighter.

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