By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Blighted and slated for demolition, the brick buildings on the corner of Blair Street and Clayton Avenue hold the memories of two prestigious academies.
The Tupelo Military Institute opened its doors to 41 young cadets in 1913 under the direction of Dr. George Chapman, according to the city Historic Preservation Commission.
“Leake amp& Goodlett Lumber Company was given the construction contract to build the first building, which was to include 20 dormitory rooms with all modern conveniences,” the commission wrote in a biography. “TMI boasted several activities for their young men, including football, band and fraternities. The fraternities were located in small houses on campus.”
A junior college was added in 1934, but two years later the institute closed amid financial woes and the declining health of its headmaster.
The site languished for nearly a decade until the Rev. CD Soper founded the Pentecostal Bible Institute for young men and women. Dozens of students from across the country attended the school, which operated from 1945 until the mid-1970s when it relocated to Jackson.
“It was a beautiful facility back in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s,” said the founder’s son, Dan Soper, who lived on the campus growing up and has mixed emotions about its demise.
After the institute moved, the chapel functioned as a Pentecostal church until it was sold to the Inspirational Community Baptist Church, which still owns it today. The other buildings changed hands several times and turned into apartments. Another apartment building was constructed on the site in 1990.
But they eventually deteriorated and became vacant. The man who has owned them for the past several years started to renovate them but gave up.
The city plans to demolish them within the next several months. Historic Preservation Commission Chairwoman Karen Keeney said the group hasn’t discussed the property’s demolition and had no comment on it.
But Soper said he supports the move.
“Time moves on, things change, and now is the time,” Soper said. “The property has dwindled down, it’s dirty, it’s unkempt. That was an era, that chapter is gone.”