It’s appropriate that in a theme park dedicated to mountain life the remnants of a mostly forgotten relic are fading back into the scenery.
Although, this is Dollywood. So it won’t be long until the space is rediscovered, repurposed and revitalized. Also very much in keeping with the spirit of the mountains.
Where was the Dollywood Inventor’s Mansion?
Back in 1979, in the days before Dolly took her ownership stake, the park was known as Silver Dollar City.
On one side was Craftsman’s Valley with Blazing Fury and the Flooded Mine. On the other side was the county fair with the railroad, the Log Flume and the Cloud Grabber.
Near the original entrance of the park, over the pedestrian tunnel that connected the two parts of the park stood the Great Inventor’s Mansion.
What was the Dollywood Inventor’s Mansion?
The Mansion was the kind of filler attraction that theme parks loved at the time. A static, walk-through attraction, the Mansion required little-to-no daily maintenance or upkeep, just the occasional cleaning.
The mansion itself seemed out of place in the park. It was hard to see over the cave tunnel that still connects the Country Fair to Craftsman’s Valley. It seemed architecturally more fitting for a haunted attraction than a whimsical romp through the mind of a mad inventor.
If you want an idea of what the inside was like, check out its cousin at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Grandfather’s Mansion (video below) features an upside-down room, mirrored walls and other dizzying effects.
Even though the Inventor’s Mansion predates “Back to the Future,” it always puts me in mind of something Dr. Emmett Brown would have enjoyed. I don’t have great memories of the mansion; it had already become Dolly’s Rags to Riches Museum by my earliest memories of the place.
Still, I understand there was a guy with a donkey nearby for photo ops. There was also a waterfall that was great for cooling off in the back. An early advertisement for the Mansion promised a mystical concoction that defies gravity through its mad, unbelievable inventions and contraptions.
What happened to the Great Inventor’s Mansion?
Alas, the Great Inventor’s Mansion wasn’t long for the world.
The irrefutable force of change was coming to the park.
By 1986, Silver Dollar City was gone and Dollywood was embarking on a 30-plus year campaign of update and change.
While many Silver Dollar City favorites survived the immediate purge, and some remain today, the Great Inventor’s Mansion almost immediately was reformed to house mystical concoctions of another kind: Dolly Parton memorabilia.
Dolly’s Rags to Riches Museum was housed in the strange-looking, strangely located mansion for a few years before the Chasing Rainbows Museum came along and replaced it.
As the park grew, the former mansion’s position within it changed as well.
A new entrance was added several hundred yards away. And the growth of the park put less of an emphasis on the pedestrian tunnel as a nexus for visitors to cross from one side to another.
Eventually, the mansion’s location became more and more the periphery of the park rather than a centerpiece.
With the Rags to Riches Museum long gone and the access to the building awkward at best via a long ramp, the opportunity to repurpose the building again was quickly falling by the wayside.
How to find the remnants of the old attraction at the park today
Then, prior to the 2018 season, much of the old mansion was torn down. Leaving behind only a few sections of the old roof.
Those pieces remain there today, remnants of a different time in the park. They serve, somehow, as a fitting reminder of how the mountains reclaim abandoned territory swiftly and without mercy.
I suspect the remains will sit up there until someone at the park can come up with a use for the space.
Maybe during one of the park’s rumored future expansions, that location can once again be repurposed into an entry point to something new. It would be nice to see the old mansion restored and turned into an entrance of a new section of the park.
One day, I suppose, when Dollywood has expanded in all the directions it can, the need to use that space once again will be great and that will spur action.
After all, necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.
Do you remember walking through the old Inventor’s Mansion at Dollywood? Let us know in the comments below.
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