Hester defends actions on historic Green Street house

TUPELO – Scolded by the city for altering a historic house without permission, property owner Tim Hester on Wednesday defended his actions as well as his record as a supporter of historic preservation.
“My record speaks for itself,” Hester told the Daily Journal by phone. He was attending an out-of-state conference and hadn’t been available for comment in Wednesday’s story about the house.
“I restored several downtown buildings into nice offices, I did the Stables Bar & Grill, I was instrumental in saving the Blue Bell building. I was single-handedly involved in moving those three houses to Chestnut Street and rehabbing them,” Hester said.
“To say I don’t care about restoration and preservation, you look at my record and you are wrong.”
Hester faces municipal sanctions for ripping off the porch, part of the facade and an addition to a house he owns at 480 S. Green St.
The work was done without a city permit or permission from the Historic Preservation Commission, which oversees all major structural projects inside local historic districts.
The house, an original mill worker’s lodging, is located inside the Mill Village local historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
City inspectors halted the work Sept. 16, and Hester must go before the commission for approval before getting his next city permit. It’s unclear what the commission will decide, but City Planner Pat Falkner recommended levying penalties.
“I admit I was at fault for not getting a permit for tearing out the bathroom,” Hester said, “but what was torn out needed to be torn out. It was a lean-to shack that was built years ago.”
Hester also said he hadn’t authorized workers to tear off the front porch or facade and discovered those changes upon returning to the property only after the fact. But the removal of those features revealed significant rotting and termite damage, and Hester said the entire structure likely is compromised.
“It’s one thing preserving property that can be rehabbed,” Hester said. “But this is gone beyond repair.”
Hester said he’ll return to Tupelo next week and welcomes a meeting with city and commission officials to assess the house.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal