Dollywood Inventor’s Mansion: The story of the lost house on the hill

Dollywood's Inventor's Mansion

The Inventor's Mansion was a relic leftover from Silver Dollar City days before it became the Rags to Riches Museum. The structure was eventually torn down in 2018 (photo shared with permission from Coaster101.com)

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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. 

Read More: Dollywood History: A look back at Rebel Railroad, Goldrush Junction

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. 

Dollywood Inventor's Mansion
The Inventor’s Mansion was essentially an amusement park “fun house” (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

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. 

Read More: These 5 ‘twin’ rides at Dollywood’s sister park will make you look twice 

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. 

The Dollywood Cave
The structure was torn down in 2018. The cave, and a few pieces of the old roof, are all that remains (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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. 

A clipping from an old Silver Dollar City ad featuring the Great Inventor’s Mansion (archive photo from Dollywood/Silver Dollar City)

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. 

Dollywood Inventor's Mansion Remains
If you look carefully, you can still see a few remnants of the old structure behind a fence near the cave (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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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Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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15 thoughts on “Dollywood Inventor’s Mansion: The story of the lost house on the hill”

  1. I would have loved to see the inventor’s mansion I remember the rags to riches museum honestly I was always in a hurry to get out of there. I thought it was rather boring.

  2. I hate people who just have to make a negative comment. The original rags to riches museum was fantastic. Of course the new museum is an upgrade but the original was special and a first!

  3. I loved it when it was the inventor’s mansion as a child. I hated it when it changed to Dolly’s museum because the little fun house was cool. I always wondered why they closed it. My thinking is that it is not handicapped accessible so they closed it up.

  4. I do remember many, many years going into an attraction in that area of the park that had several trick mirrors and a floor that was slanted in places…I seem to remember it being poorly lit inside…not sure if this was the Inventor’s house or not…In the same area there was an attraction called the corkscrew or something..you sat on benches down the middle of a cylinder room….then the walls started spinning giving you the feeling that you were drilling through the mountain…got sick the first time I went in there..any one else remember this…

  5. I have wonderful memories of taking the time to walk through the Rags to Riches Museum every visit we were there during the Season. It was a nice way to cook the kids down before their next big adventure in the park. I have many pictures of my daughter and Special Needs Nephew made with the lifesize full length picture of Dolly in her mint green gown. My daughter felt like she was standing with Dolly. I hope this can and will be brought back to a special place inside Dollywood.

  6. As a child, I loved the Inventor’s Mansion. I remember being particularly fascinated with a faucet unconnected to anything that had water running from it. I think there was a perpetual motion machine also.

  7. Don’t forget long before Silver Dollar City the park original was called Rebel Railroad and then Goldrush Junction before it became Silver Dollar City. I personally have going to that park for over 50 years and have enjoyed all the changes and with my kids and grandkids. It’s truly a great park to have in East Tennessee.

  8. I have only been to Dollywood once and I think I was around 8 or 9. I do remember the museum where you could see her clothes and wigs and pictures. I thought it was very neat. I plan to bring my children there some day. I hate that this was removed but hopefully the space will get repurposed soon.

  9. I don’t remember the inventors mansion but do remember Dolly’s rags to riches, I made my parents take me through it every time we went to Dollywood, I always loved her beautiful dresses, but what was before sounds even more interesting.

  10. Oh yes, the Inventors Mansion. I loved it, always went in every time we went to Silver Dollar City. Enjoyed the Dolly memorabilia too. I vaguely remember Rebel Railroad but Goldfish Junction was a family trip every summer. My dad used to save Lay’s product labels from his work for the Be Our Guest promotion where you sent in labels and got free admissions to various attractions. We did all kinds of things for free and Goldfish Junction was a favorite.

  11. I remember the Inventors Mansion from when I was a child and how much I laughed at my grandfather (who had a wooden leg) trying to walk across the slanted floor! I also still have a photo taken of me with the old man and the mule outside of the mansion. Great memories!!

  12. After they moved Dolly’s things to the new museum they used the space for a Rollercoaster Museum! It was pretty cool too!

  13. We loved the inventors mansion! We went through it every time we went to Dollywood until they closed it. We went through the Rags to Riches as well. Was there ever a Coke display?

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