By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Spain House, one of Tupelo’s few remaining structures to have survived a deadly tornado 75 years ago this week, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The designation opens doors for grants, tax credits and state and federal funding to renovate the century-old house, whose future remains uncertain despite the national listing.
But it’s a positive step toward saving the structure, which must be relocated from its current site at West Main and Madison streets within one year or face demolition.
“This legitimizes what we are trying to do with the house,” said Doyce Deas, member of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission, which has waged a years-long battle to save the house.
“The National Park Service has realized the intrinsic historic qualities of the Spain House,” Deas said. “We are thrilled to be able to accomplish this. It proves this house is worthy of saving.”
Tupelo’s City Council took temporary possession of the house six months ago from Calvary Baptist Church, which purchased it in 2006 as part of its expansion plans. The church can’t use it – in part because of the hefty renovation costs – and wants it removed from the site or demolished.
The council’s action bought time for the Historic Preservation Commission to find a new location for the structure and raise money for its transportation.
Winning national historic designation was key to those efforts, because it elevates the structure’s status and provides more financial incentives for its renovation, said commission Chairwoman Karen Keeney.
“Getting the application together for the National Register was a labor of love for several members of the THPC,” Keeney said. “We spent many lunches, nights and weekends poring over every last detail. Without the tireless effort of this faithful band, this recognition could not have been possible.”