Council OKs agreement that saves Spain House

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City leaders approved a contract to take temporary possession of the historic Spain House on Tuesday in a 6-1 vote.
The agreement saves the structure from demolition for at least 18 months while the Historic Preservation Commission seeks a permanent solution.
Mike Bryan of Ward 6 was the sole objector, saying the city shouldn’t get involved with the property. Instead, he said, it should immediately green-light its demolition.
“I’d like to save all the historic sites in the city,” Bryan said. But “this has gone on long enough.”
According to the deal, Calvary Baptist Church, which owns the house, will transfer title to the city at no cost. The city has until April 1, 2012, to relocate the structure either on its own or by giving it to someone else. If it doesn’t, Calvary will proceed with plans to demolish it at its own cost.
The contract caps more than a year of negotiations between the church, which doesn’t want the house, and the preservation commission, which wants to save it.
“It’s a win-win,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis. “I’m very concerned about us protecting our historic landmarks.”
Other council members said they support the contract as long as it doesn’t burden the taxpayers.
“The city should not spend one dime,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell.
Although the municipality will take ownership of the house for free, it will assume liability for the century-old structure, which is vacant and potentially unsafe.
Council members said the city must secure the property to prevent trespassing, something the church has had to do since purchasing it in 2006.
The Spain House sits on the southeast corner of Main and Madison streets and is one of the few remaining structures to have survived the city’s devastating 1936 tornado.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.