DYESS (KAIT)- It's the largest and one of the oldest buildings in the town of dyess in Mississippi county. For years it was the hub of the small farming community but now the 62 year old building stands empty. Now plans are underway to restore the building.
"It was about 2500 people back then which is a long ways from what it is today. Were only 515 today."
Dyess Mayor Larry Sims tells of a rise and decline for Dyess. Formed as a farm colony in the thirties it had a hospital and school and movie theater.
Now all that's left is the crumbling movie theater and the administration building.
Which served as the city hub for residents and incoming residents of the area including the Cash family.
Sims, "That's where they did all their financing and the farmers when they would come in and get their 20 acres and a mule. That's where they did their paperwork in the building. Johnny Cash and his family that's where they got there start was in this building right here."
Now the sixty plus year-old building is in need of restoration, as the center piece of Dyess and a delta Mecca for Johnny Cash fans, Sims and his committee have big plans for the building.
Sims, "Sooner or later we're gonna put city hall in there, that will be the first step. We're gonna put a library in there, a memorial for Johnny Cash and a museum for Gene Williams. And a lot of Dyess history."
With the aid of a grant and money they raised from concerts during Dyess days the long restoration process has begun.
They were able to raise enough money to put a new roof on the building this year, but that pretty muched tapped them out. So now there's a new fund raising ,movement on the way to start working on the inside.
Sims, "We're trying to put the building back as much as it was in the thirties so when you come in you get that thirties feeling in the building when you walk in, both inside and out."
Structurally, the building is quite sound as we explored from bottom to the cedar timber framed attic spaces. One of the highlights is the original hand-carved staircase railing still as solid as the day it was made.
Sims knows the restoration money won't be easy to come by.
Sims, "It may take years, six, seven more years to get it done. But sooner or later we'll reach that goal. We hope."
Sims is passionate about his building and his town and its roots in the history of America.
Sims, "Mother nature has taken her toll on it, and that's why we are stepping in now to save the building. If we don't its part of the history and when it's gone and that's all dyess has left and when it's gone we don't have any history left."