By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Boarded up windows, no trespassing signs and a missing wraparound porch at the Spain House on south Church Street show how little has changed since the house was cut into thirds nine months ago and moved to the site.
In less than three weeks, picnics, old-time music and tours of the location and building will breathe life into the property intended to serve as an anchor for the community’s commitment to historic preservation. Members of Tupelo Historic Preservation Society will host a “Raise the Roof” fundraiser at the property to help raise money needed to apply for a state grant to help put a new roof and wraparound porch on the house designated as a Tupelo Landmark by the City Council in 2009.
The city of Tupelo bought the house on West Main Street from Calvary Baptist Church and moved it to the Church Street location and deeded the property to the Tupelo Historic Preservation Society.
Historic preservation advocate Doyce Deas said the Sept. 14 event blends the opportunity to showcase the house to the community before any restoration has happened with the need to raise $40,000 to qualify to apply for a state-funded community heritage preservation grant.
With the grant application due on Sept. 27 and only about $5,000 committed, Deas said raising private donations is critical to the historic preservation property that is one of the last remaining “wedding cake homes” left that once lined Main Street.
After the 1936 tornado destroyed much of the city, few structures remain from the early 1900s like the Spain House. Deas and other preservationists believe restoring the house can show the community’s concern and support for historic landmarks.
“Without valuing our history, I think you lose part of your soul,” Deas said. “Once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back.”
The Tupelo Historic Preservation Society intends to apply for a $200,000 grant to cover costs for the first phase of the house’s restoration. No cost estimates have been made on the entire project.
Karen Keeney, member of the city’s historic preservation commission and the nonprofit historic preservation society, said the fundraiser at the Spain House property will celebrate moving the structure to the location and also help motivate the community to help encourage support for the next chapter of the house’s history.
“It’ll really be our first time to celebrate and get ready for the next phase,” Keeney said.
Rob Brandon, president of the local historic preservation society, said restoring the house will help with revitalization of the Mill Village neighborhood. He lives on South Church Street in proximity to the Spain House and said the property will encourage other investment in the area.
“This is going to bring out the regentrification of the area,” he said.