By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – A $120,000 matching grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History will help fund the first renovation efforts of a famous Tupelo building sliced into three parts, moved to another part of the city and pieced back together.
Formally known as the Spain House, local preservationist Doyce Deas calls the boarded-up, dingy house the future crown jewel among Tupelo’s historic architecture and a future home to organizations focused on keeping the past alive.
“It will serve as a visible, tangible representation of historic preservation in Tupelo and Lee County,” Deas said.
New funding from the state department’s Community Heritage Preservation grant program will pay for a new roof, and reconstruction of the porch and portico. The Tupelo Historic Preservation Society must contribute $31,899 toward the project as a requirement of the state grant.
With a local historic designation in 2009 and a 2011 listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the large Colonial Revival house is the city’s remaining “wedding cake” homes that once lined Main Street. Prominent residents lived in the house and it also had been at one time a funeral home.
Moved a year ago this month three blocks from the corner of West Main and Madison streets, members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Tupelo City Council rallied to save the three-story house five years ago from demolition. Located on property owned by Calvary Baptist Church, the house occupied land planned for a parking lot.
Now located in Mill Village, a National Register of Historic Places District, the Spain House needs significant restoration and renovation to return to suitable condition. Preservationists in the city and state believe the house will help spur other city preservation efforts.
After immediate planned renovations and repairs, the Tupelo Historic Preservation Society plans to remove siding from the house and paint the wood underneath. Afterward, restoration will focus inside the house, along with necessary electrical and plumbing work.
Deas said each phase of the project will require local support and state and federal taxpayer-funded grants. It’ll also require patience.
“That’s not one of my strengths,” Deas said. “But I’ve had to have it because this must get done.”