Council adds two historic landmarks

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Two iconic structures this week joined the growing list of local historic landmarks granted protection by the City Council.
Designated were Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church on North Green Street, and the neon-lit arrow at Crosstown that points to Tupelo’s business district and proclaims it the first TVA city.
Both structures received unanimous approval by council members Tuesday.
“That’s exciting that we had the full support of the council on two items that obviously give a lot of merit to the history of Tupelo,” said Karen Keeney, chairwoman of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission.
The THPC had nominated the structures in March and formally requested their designations in a letter to the mayor and council dated May 25.
Local historic landmarks fall under the protection of the THPC. No one can alter or demolish them without the THPC’s permission, and any work on those structures must meet strict historic guidelines.
Built in 1921, the old sanctuary at Spring Hill M.B. Church is one of the few remaining structures to have survived the city’s devastating 1936 tornado. The church itself was organized in the 1860s and is believed to be the oldest black congregation in Tupelo.
“I think this is a very attractive facility that we need to keep in place,” said Ward 4 City Councilwoman Nettie Davis during the vote.
The Mississippi Heritage Trust identified the church as one of Mississippi’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2007, a move that inspired Spring Hill’s membership to push for the designation, according to some of its trustees in a letter to the THPC.
It’s unclear when the Tupelo arrow was erected, but the THPC determined it was sometime between 1934 and 1954 based on research. It symbolizes the city’s status as the first American community to receive power from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Other Tupelo landmarks include the century-old Spain House on the corner of West Main and Madison streets, the East Main Street Water Tower, and the Forest Lake Farm, which now sits in Ballard Park and houses a portion of the Oren Dunn City Museum.
“Tupelo has lost so much of its historic inventory,” Kenney said. “Items that we all hold precious should be saved, and this is the only way the city can go about doing that.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.