Dolly Parton’s Childhood Home in Tennessee

“I still close my eyes and go home–I can always draw from that.”
-Dolly Parton

I just got home from my trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and thought you’d like to see the souvenir I brought back for you. You didn’t think I’d come back empty handed, did you?

We went to Dollywood yesterday, and one of my favorite things in the park was the replica of Dolly Parton’s childhood home constructed by her mother and brother. I was amazed to see how Dolly and her 10 brothers and sisters lived in this tiny, one-room cabin in the Smoky Mountains. She has always described her family as “dirt poor,” and that’s no exaggeration. It’s all the more remarkable when you think about how far she’s come since then.



The humble hearth (the interiors were protected by a glass wall, but my camera did its best to capture them clearly):

I was fascinated by the small details, like the tin of tobacco and Johnson’s Baby Powder on the shelves:


This was the only bed in the place. I was stumped as to where the 11 children slept. There wasn’t even enough floor space for them all! I mean, it was even smaller than the Spite House.


The walls were wallpapered with pages from old newspapers and magazines. Here is the “kitchen corner” with the stove:



This was part of the “kitchen corner” and appeared to be a sort of pantry:


The kitchen table with seating for 6. Where did the other 7 family members sit? Did they have to eat in shifts?



The front porch (maybe this is where some of them slept?):


One of my favorite Dolly quotes: “I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”

Five Fun Facts About Dolly Parton:

  1. She’s Miley Cyrus’s godmother and plays “Aunt Dolly” on the popular Disney show “Hannah Montana.” (My 13-year old told me this!)
  2. Parton’s investment in Pigeon Forge, with enterprises like Dollywood and Dixie Stampede has revitalized the area and employs thousands.
  3. She’s known as the Iron Butterfly. She uses butterflies as her logos, which represent beauty and freedom to her.
  4. Twenty-six of Parton’s songs have hit #1 on the Billboard country charts, a record for a female artist.
  5. Imagination Library is her literacy program that mails a book a month to children from the time they’re born until they turn 5. Although it began in her hometown of Sevier County, it now reaches children across the U.S. We talked to one Dollywood employee who told us that every time her daughter gets a book in the mail, she says, “Aunt Dolly loves me!”

Dolly Parton’s first mainstream country album in 18 years is now in stores (Backwoods Barbie). You can learn more about what she’s up to at the popular fan site DollyOnline.

9/10 UPDATE: These photos were featured on “The Nate Berkus Show” when Dolly made an appearance on it. You can read all about it here.

Photo of Dolly Parton via AOL Music. The rest are mine.

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  1. says

    Wow. That’s so cool. I’m going to stop thinking our family of five is crowded in our four-bedroom house! Thanks for the tour, Julia. We’ve never actually gone to Dollywood when we’ve driven through Pigeon Forge, but I’m planning to make a stop next time we’re heading to Gatlinburg.

  2. says

    I love Dolly. I can’t believe that house!!! We’re also lucky to live in Tennessee and have participated in the Imagination Library since we moved here. It’s a great program – V has gotten lots of great books.

  3. says

    Have I mentioned lately that I love your blog? :o)

    I also love Dolly Parton! I was in Gatlinburg once on vacation but we didn’t get to Dollyworld. I was just a tiny bit bummed! I have 8 brothers and sisters and we all grew up in a 3 bedroom 1 bath house. I thought THAT was horrible. I can’t imagine living in that tiny cabin. Yikes.

  4. Meredith says

    So interesting! I love things like this. I really like to learn something when I travel, and I am surprised to find out all these things about Dolly. I never knew anything about her at all, except that she was in “9 To 5.” So, thanks.

  5. lobstermobster says

    Wow being born and raised in Nashville it seems so wrong that I never went here once in those 18 years. Hope you had fun! Dolly is the best.

  6. JLB says

    I love Dolly! You really should read her book “My Life and Other Unfinished Business” It really is great and goes into a lot of detail about their life. She does so much work for great charities like the book foundation she started. I read her book everytime I get depressed for inspiration. She really did grow up “dirt poor”.

  7. hookedonhouses says

    JLB–thanks for telling us about her book. It sounds great. I love that kind of stuff. I went through Dolly Parton’s museum, which was a lot of fun. They had a replica of her hometown church built inside, and it was so small I’m not sure how they fit more than the preacher and three congregants inside. Were people that much smaller back then? 😉

  8. says

    This is a really neat post. She really seems like such a genuine, sweet lady. I love that she is proud of her past and of her family as well.

  9. Reba Carlisle-Gurley says

    When you are a child and have “less than” or feel “less than” you usually do “less than”. Dolly deserves a lot of credit but somewhere in that young life there was someone who really made her believe she was “MORE THAN” or could do “MORE THAN”. No how much talent and how many gifts, someone has to teach you that you are worth to open them and show them. That someone speaks with the voice of God.

    Thanks to whomever did the speaking and thanks, Dolly, for listening.

  10. shahbeen says

    i am speechless,…….all i can say is that we all have so much to thank God for,…..i dont know tht much about dolly,..but after seeing these pictures all i can say is that im so proud of her,….

  11. maddi says

    hey i am a BIG fan

    u were on hannah montana

  12. says

    Tell ole Dolly that I got her beat. She only had a lousy 11 in her family. Well I got her beat by two. There was 13 in my family and I am the youngest one. And I’m 53. I have a sister that is 73.
    There was 8 boys and 5 girls. But 3 have passed away. So there’s only 10 left. 7 boys and 3 girls. And tell Dolly that we play music too. We had a band in Maryland called the Counry Souls. I
    played bass, my brother Larry played lead guitar, my brother Roger played piano and organ, and my brother Ronnie played rhythm
    and sang. I sang too and my brother Roger sang. We used to tell the drummer that we had another brother named Jerry who was coming to Maryland to play drums. We were a lot like Dolly’s family. We were poor more than we were rich. But we had a lot of fun growing up. We still get together and talk about the old times. We were all raised in a three room house. My brother Junior
    was 22 years old when I was born in 1956. I had sisters that were pregnant the same time my mother was pregnant with me. So I have nephews that are almost as old as I am. I heard old Porter died.
    I used to listen to him and Dolly when I was growing up. We all thought they sounded so good together. My mother and father liked to listen to them sing. We used to watch Porter’s show all the time. I still like to hear Dolly sing. She has a great voice. She
    was a little country gal that hit the bigtime. People make fun of us hillbillies but the real truth is they love us. Bye Youall

  13. says

    Another fun and random fact about Dolly, she and my father share the same birthday. Same month, same day, and same year. Useless trivia, I know, but I’ve always thought it was cool! :)

    She’s a very inspirational lady!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Tasty Tuesdays- Banana Bread =-.

    • hookedonhouses says

      You mean you can’t see the photos in this post? Hit “refresh” on your browser and try again. They’re there! -Julia

  14. missy says

    How have I not seen this post before? I live in Knoxville which is close to Sevierville. Dolly is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever known of. Sevierville was truly a backwoods area with a little tourism just to keep people working until she came in and bought Dollywood. I can’t think of any celebrity who has put more people to work than this woman. She is amazing and we LOVE her around here!!! p.s. Did you also know that when she found out how low the graduation rate was at her old high school she started giving the kids who finished school a monetary gift? I can’t remember now how much she gives them, but she is just incredible.

  15. Paul says

    Dolly, am a Kenyan and much follower of your music. you makes me fall in love whenever i hear from you .Pay a visit in kenya to revive us .

  16. says

    my fafret song of dollys is the coite of many calars that her mother made her =-]=-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-] =-0 =-0 =-0 =-0 =-0 =-0 =–0 =-0 =-0 =-0 =-0=-0