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.
Or at least, they were fading. Now, it’s nearly all but erased.
This is Dollywood.
It is never long until lost spaces are rediscovered, repurposed or 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 that is now Dollywood 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 once connected the Country Fair to Craftsman’s Valley.
In 2022, that tunnel was removed completely.
At the time, the Inventor’s Mansion 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 above) features an upside-down room, mirrored walls and other dizzying effects.
Even though the Inventor’s Mansion predated “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 Inventor’s 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 defied 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 mansion for a few years before it was moved to the Chasing Rainbows Museum.
The Chasing Rainbows Museum, I should note, is also closed for the 2022 season as Dollywood takes time to “reimagine future possibilities for the attraction”.
As the park grew, the former mansion’s position within it changed.
A new entrance was added several hundred yards away. And the growth of the park put less of an emphasis on the former 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.
Now, the tunnel and any sign of the old attraction are gone for good.
It is among the other Dollywood classics that are gone but not forgotten, like the Flooded Mine ride, the River Battle, Thunder Road or Timber Tower.
Can you see the remnants of the Inventor’s Mansion today?
Until recently, a few sections of the old roof could be seen above the former tunnel.
Those pieces served as remnants of a different time in the park. They served, somehow, as a fitting reminder of how the mountains reclaim abandoned territory swiftly and without mercy.
Now, those pieces are gone. In 2022, employees unveiled new changes within the park.
The tunnel that once served as a cool place to find shade is now a wide-open walkway at the park today, with little to be seen of what once stood in its place.
After all, necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.
However, as one of the most popular theme parks in the country, I look forward to ever-evolving changes to the park knowing that Dollywood is always looking toward the future.
Do you remember walking through the old Inventor’s Mansion at Dollywood? Let us know in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: If you’re planning a trip to Dollywood, remember to check Tripster for discounts on your tickets before you go.