By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The endangered Spain House could get a $175,000 boost from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, but the city first must seek historic status for it from the state.
Members of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday urged the council to apply for the designation so the house could become eligible for a grant. But some council members worried the move would usurp its authority to demolish the house should plans for its renovation fail.
The century-old Spain House currently belongs to the city, but its previous owner, Calvary Baptist Church, has the right to demolish it unless it’s relocated before a set deadline. The home sits on the corner of West Main and Madison streets on land belonging to the church.
Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have spent the past year trying to find a new location for the house and also identify a funding source for its transportation and renovation.
The MDAH grant would provide enough funds to move the house, said commission member Doyce Deas. But it’s only available to state historic landmarks. The Spain House is designated locally and nationally, but not with the state.
Council members said they support the idea but worried state designation would prevent the church from demolishing the house should the grant fall through.
Deas promised to clarify that issue before the council seeks historic status.
The grant is due Oct. 7, so the council must act fast. Deas wants members to vote on the issue at its next meeting Tuesday.
The city will learn whether it wins the grant in December. If it does, it must pay a 20 percent match – roughly $35,000. But City Planner Pat Falkner said he understands Calvary will offer to pay about one-third of that amount.
The house would be relocated to a vacant, city-owned lot on the corner of South Church and Carnation streets.