Best of the South Awards


Opening Day of the Cash Boyhood House in Dyess, Arkansas

Opening Day of the Cash Boyhood House in Dyess, Arkansas

Established in 2006, SESAH’s annual Best of the South (BOTS): Preserving Southern Architecture Award honors a project that preserves or restores an historic building, or complex of buildings, in an outstanding manner and demonstrates excellence in research, technique, and documentation.

The 2016 winner of the Best of the South Award is the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Restoration by Arkansas State University.

For more information about the Arkansas State University Heritage Site, please visit

The committee found this team’s work remarkable in its commitment to the accurate restoration and interpretation of this modest home. The innovative and intensive restoration methodology, using virtual models as well as an intervention to move the building to remediate soil and shore up the foundation, exhibited a combination of best practices and elegant problem solving.

The finished house illustrates in tangible form a critical era of American history while at the same time conveying the rags to riches story of an American music icon. Using the records of the Dyess Colony, one of the Roosevelt Administration’s New Deal resettlement communities, and obtaining historic photos and recollections from Cash family members, the research team also took a creative crowdsourcing approach to find period furnishings for the house.

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is now open six days a week and has had visitors from more than 40 countries and all 50 states. Along with the restored house and restored Dyess Colony Administration Building, both completed in 2014, Arkansas State University opened a Visitors Center in the re-created Dyess Theatre and Pop Shop in May 2016. Additionally, historic markers have been placed at former locations of other important Dyess Colony New Deal buildings. Plans are now underway to re-create the outbuildings at the Cash farmstead, along with a biking-walking trail that will connect the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home with the Historic Dyess Colony Center. What a remarkable project!

Best of the South: Special Commendation

slide4In  2016, the committee also recognized the adaptive reuse project Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia, submitted by Surber Barber Choate & Hertlein Architects PC, with a Special Commendation.

For more information about the project, please visit  and

The committee found this team’s work remarkable in its commitment not only to the Secretary of the Interior’s historic preservation standards but also to sustainable design and energy efficiency that merited LEED certification.

Further, the reinvigoration of the 15.9-acre site imaginatively re-purposes the landscape setting while maintaining links to its historic use. Ponce City Market’s multi-level complex of commercial, residential, leisure, and retail spaces served by the Atlanta Belt Line light rail and trail system reflects both its initial identity as Ponce Springs Amusement Park as well as the rail-connected southern distribution center for the Sears Roebuck & Company.

If you want to apply for next year’s award, please go to our Call for Nominations page.