OUR OPINION: Spain House heads to private sector

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Spain House, an early 20th century former dwelling that has occupied an unlikely and controversial spotlight in Tupelo for the past three years, soon will have a new owner to go with its new location on South Church Street near the former Carnation Milk Plant, which faces Carnation Street.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a contract transferring ownership from the city to the Tupelo Historic Preservation Society will be completed in a timely way. The City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to approve the deal after two days of disagreement over liability issues threatened to derail the transfer.
We hope the closing also ends a sharp and unlikely disagreement about the fate of the structure, which had been owned by Calvary Baptist Church and was designated for razing in the church’s long-range campus plan. The Spain name comes from a former owner.
Calvary is one of Tupelo’s largest congregations and owns virtually the entire block bounded by West Main, South Madison, Magazine and Church Streets. Calvary’s announced intent to raze the structure stirred a protest, delaying doing anything to the house for years, until late 2012, when contracts were signed to prepare a new foundation at the new site and move the house there.
After nearly three years of the Historic Preservation Society trying to gain ownership of the structure, a last minute blowup about the city’s liability moving forward almost stopped the process again. The leader of the preservation group, Doyce Deas, said its efforts will now shift to recruiting members and raising funds for the commission’s work.
Aside from the relocation costs, the most expensive phase of the Spain House’s history is just beginning. The structure will require monetary investment for further preservation and maintenance regardless of its frequency of use. The preservationist obviously don’t want the relocated building to sit empty; that would continue its status, just at a different location.
The Spain House for some is an icon of a long-ago time in Tupelo’s history. For others, it’s a big risk.
The action of interested citizens and preservationists moving forward will write the rest of the structure’s history; with imagination and backing it can be a useful one.