EDITORIAL: The Spain House

The Tupelo City Council’s vote on Tuesday night to table action on what to do about the century-old former residence in downtown Tupelo known as the Spain House protected the property from possible razing until the end of 2009. It also bought time to develop a win-win situation for the property’s owner, Calvary Baptist Church, and preservationists, who want to avoid demolition and maintain the history the structure represents.
Calvary Baptist, a large congregation on the corner of Main and South Church streets, has offered to donate the structure – located at Main and Madison – to someone who would move it and restore it. Several people have expressed interest, but nothing firm has been hammered out. Calvary has purchased the block of property on which its sanctuary sits and it has plans for expanding the use of the campus.
We suggest exploring the possibility of moving the house to the John Allen National Fish Hatchery, whose Elizabeth Street campus includes the former superintendent’s residence, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The fish hatchery house is a Victorian from the same era as the Spain House – the earliest years of the 20th century.
If the house could be moved to that federal property and sited opposite the existing National Register property it would create an enclave of turn-of-the-20th-century history.
The Spain House would remain in Tupelo and it could become a public use property like the superintendent’s residence. The Spain House is not on the National Register.
The Spain House is a 6,000-square-foot building, and moving it would be a daunting but not necessarily impossible task. It has served as a private residence, a combination residence and funeral home, and as a real estate company’s offices.
We don’t suggest that becoming a public property is the only option. If a buyer can be found who would relocate the structure to an appropriate site in Tupelo the period architecture would remain a visual asset. The city’s historic preservation ordinance requires a decision from the council if an agreement is not reached.
In the meantime, we hope interested Tupelo citizens will unite in an effort to relocate the structure in an appropriate setting and pursue National Register Status.
The National Register criteria allows designation for relocated buildings if they have special architectural/historic significance: “A building or structure removed from its original location but which is primarily significant for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event…”
We believe a solution can be found and divisive conflict avoided.

NEMS Daily Journal