Arkansas State University recently received two grants totalling nearly $1 million from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council to be used as part of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home project in Dyess and the renovation of the V.C. Kays House on the Jonesboro campus.
ANCRC awarded the university $200,000 for work on the Kays House and $750,000 to rebuild the Dyess Theatre for use as a visitor orientation and welcome center at the Cash Boyhood Home.
Ruth Hawkins, executive director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program, applied for the grants, which are awarded annually to state agencies.
The V.C. Kays residence, one of the older structures on campus, was home to the university's first president and his wife, Bertie. Previous private donations have made way for cosmetic improvements, but this grant will allow for an extensive restoration that includes waterproofing basement walls, installing a drainage system and cleaning and repairing the tile roof, among other tasks.
Chancellor Tim Hudson said restoring the historic structure has been a project he's been involved in since arriving at the university.
"Along with our system president, Chuck Welch, and listening to faculty leaders, we worked together to turn the planned demolition of the home into a lasting part of our legacy," Hudson said in a news release.
Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development, told Arkansas Business in an email that ideas for the V.C. Kays residence are still being discussed and no final decisions have been made.
"We have some opportunities related to our Arkansas heritage studies program, and we're considering ideas such as information displays for campus visitors," he said.
The Dyess Theatre begins phase two of the master plan for the Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash project, which is led by the Arkansas Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University. Work to rebuild the theatre has already started.
More: Click here to view the Dyess Colony master plan (PDF).
The theater will be adjacent to the Dyess Administration Building, which will house the Dyess Colony Museum and municipal offices of the City of Dyess.
When it opens, the theater will serve as the first building visitors come through and the place where they buy admission tickets and view an orientation film.
The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, located about two miles from the theater and administration building, was originally built in 1935 and has been restored to its appearance when the Cash family lived in it from 1935 to 1954. It's scheduled to open Aug. 16.
Other projects for the colony include the rebuilding outbuildings of the Cash home and a colony house, and a walking trail between the Colony Circle and the Cash home.
A feasibility study conducted by Arkansas Heritage Sites estimated the Cash home would bring 50,000 annual visitors that spend about $10 million in the region and create more than 100 tourism-related jobs.