By NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo’s century-old Spain House now sits on its new home just south of the railroad tracks at the corner of South Church and Carnation streets.
It was taken there Friday by trucks in a short but precisely planned trip from three blocks north. But the journey to the Spain House’s new home lasted several years and took many more turns than the few made in the actual move.
That journey’s end is a testament to the persistence, creativity and willingness to compromise among all parties involved.
The building is one of a small and rapidly diminishing number of architectural links to Tupelo’s past. The 1936 tornado wiped out many, but others have been destroyed without much thought through the years. This disappearing heritage prompted the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to intervene in 2009 when the house’s owner, Calvary Baptist Church, determined it could not afford the upkeep and wanted to demolish it.
The City Council granted the commission’s request to give the Spain House protected historic status. The church had bought the property where the house sat at the corner of Madison and Main streets with its own campus expansion plans in mind. The structure didn’t fit into those plans, but church leaders made a good-faith effort to work with the city to find a solution.
Initially, preservationists wanted the house to stay where it was. But the city agreed to offer the Carnation Street property it owned for the house’s relocation, and a grant was secured from the state Department of Archives and History to pay for the move. The city and the church contributed additional funds for the project.
There were times when it appeared no agreeable solution would emerge. There were some testy meetings and exchanges.
Ultimately, however, all sides gave a little. Patience and persistence were in abundance over the last three years. The Historic Preservation Commission, the city and the church eventually wound up with a plan.
Much more remains to be done to carry out the vision historic preservationists have for the Spain House. Private donations will be critical in that effort.
But the outcome provides an example of the cooperation toward creative compromise that has defined Tupelo in its best moments, and from which leaders at every level can draw a lesson.