By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – First Baptist Church will demolish the century-old Whitfield Home for parking, sparing the stately Rogers Home for a decision on another day.
Church members voted late Sunday to tear down the house at 530 Jefferson St. and build a parking lot in its place. It will create an estimated 34 spaces, said church Properties Committee Chairman Gary Ford.
Ford’s group originally recommended the church demolish that building, plus two others, to expand its parking area by nearly 50 percent. Currently, the church has 273 parking spots but often draws such large crowds that members must park on the street or in non-church lots.
But one of the houses in that parking plan – the Rogers Home on North Church Street – attracted attention from the community and the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission. The commission voted Friday to designate the house a local historic landmark in an effort to save it from demolition.
The City Council must approve that designation before it becomes official, but the commission’s move prevents the municipality from issuing a demolition permit for at least six months.
Church members, too, also voiced concern for the house during the 90-minute, closed-door meeting Sunday. To break a deadlock on the issue, the parking plan was split into its separate components for a vote.
A decision on the 75-year-old Rogers Home and another house on Madison Street were postponed, but the Jefferson Street house will come down, members ultimately decided.
The church had purchased the house several years ago from the Whitfield family, which had owned it since 1948. It was built sometime between 1912 and 1915, according to one of its former occupants, and had survived the deadly 1936 tornado that destroyed so many other downtown properties.
The white, two-story house features a large walk-up brick porch and a small shed or mother-in-law’s quarters in the backyard.
Currently, the Christian Women’s Job Corps operates out of the structure.
It’s unclear exactly when the house will come down.