Century-old Tupelo house getting a second chance

TUPELO – One of the city’s top 10 endangered historic properties now has a bright future thanks to the efforts of Tupelo resident Brad Prewitt.
Prewitt purchased the century-old house at 215 N. Church St., a two-story structure that had been neglected for years and was at risk of crumbling.
“It had maybe two or three years left before it would have been too late,” said Prewitt, a local businessman and the chairman of the municipal Public Transportation Committee.
The home was built in 1910 by R.C. Clark, one of the founders of the Bank of Verona – today BancorpSouth. It had changed hands several times and last year was named one of the city’s most endangered properties by the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission.
Prewitt bought it in August, submitted it to the National Register of Historic Places, and hopes to have it rehabilitated by spring. The U.S. Park Service, which oversees the register, granted the home preliminary acceptance.
“People turn into dust quicker than houses and gravestones,” Prewitt said, “so that’s all that’s left of a city’s history is its houses and tombstones. That’s why historic preservation is so important.”
General contractor Lynn Bryan will oversee the project, which will conform to the guidelines of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and National Park Service.
He will restore the 3,800-square-foot house to its original condition, as well as update the wiring and plumbing.
“The sad thing is, so many folks have torn down these houses, and they treat the National Historic Register as a hindrance to the bottom line,” Bryan said. “But Brad reaps 45 percent tax credits by doing it this way, and it’s not much harder.”
Prewitt said it’s not about the money, but about preserving the past.
Senior City Planner Renee Autumn Ray agreed. She was on hand for a site inspection Tuesday and termed the renovation a “quality of life issue.” By restoring a vacant and neglected structure, Prewitt adds value to the neighborhood and the city tax rolls, Ray said.
“The city of Tupelo is grateful for Prewitt and other residents like him who are working to recognize and rehabilitate the historic properties we are fortunate to have here,” said Annabeth Freeman Wyatt, the city’s communications director.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal