By NEMS Daily Journal
Political compromises are never easy to accomplish. They take a good-faith effort by both sides and a willingness to acknowledge that giving ground doesn’t have to mean selling out or abandoning principle.
That’s a message that’s having a hard time taking hold in Washington these days, and the country’s the worse off for it.
One laborious compromise in the works in Tupelo for the past couple of years has involved the century-old Spain House, located at the corner of West Main and Madison streets in the downtown area.
Calvary Baptist Church had purchased the house, which was adjacent to its property. The building didn’t fit into the church’s long-range plans, and church leaders determined that renovating it was financially unfeasible.
The church had plans to raze the structure, but the city’s Historic Preservation Commission intervened. It convinced the City Council to grant the house historic status, prohibiting its demolition.
There certainly are good arguments for preserving the house. It’s one of Tupelo’s oldest surviving structures. A decades-long cavalier attitude about demolition of historic structures coupled with the destruction of many of the city’s older residences by the devastating tornado of 1936 have combined to leave Tupelo with few remnants of its early architectural heritage.
But the church had a valid argument as well. It was told not to tear down the building, but no one was offering any help to restore or move it. The deteriorating structure was rapidly becoming a liability. The church offered to give the house to anyone who would take it and move it from the property, but no one was interested.
Enter a period of give-and-take. The city agreed to take the property for 18 months and try to find a way to move it to city land at South Church and Carnation streets. If unsuccessful by April 1, 2012, it would allow the church to proceed with razing the house.
A solution may now be in the works. The council voted to seek state historic status for the Spain House – it has local and federal designations, but not state – in order to qualify for a $175,000 grant to move it. The city would have to come up with $35,000 of its own. There’s a risk: If the designation comes through and the grant doesn’t, the state might step in to prevent demolition. But both parties are willing to take that risk.
This solution would be a win for everyone. It would also give credence to the vanishing notion that given the right attitude and sufficient patience and persistence, political compromise is possible.