Councilmen mull what to do with historic structure

TUPELO — The clock is ticking on a proposal before the Tupelo City Council to move the historic Spain House to another location.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the city has six months to move Spain House before a two-year deadline expires and reopens the possibility of demolition.

The century-old Spain House has served as a home, a funeral parlor and an office suite before being purchased by the church several years ago. It’s now vacant and in disrepair. Plans are to move it to a city-owned lot.

Mayor Jack Reed Jr. must first sign an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History promising to maintain the house for 25 years. The city council must approve the agreement before Reed can sign it.

It’s a stipulation of the $175,000 matching grant MDAH awarded Tupelo in December to move the house. But municipal leaders are leery of the commitment, saying it poses an unknown financial risk to the city.

“It’s an old house, there’s no way of knowing how much money it will cost to maintain it,” said City Planner Pat Falkner told the council this week.

The Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission initiated the house relocation and will oversee its renovation. The city ultimately is the responsible party – both legally and financially.

Calvary Baptist Church, which owns the property where the house sits, wanted to demolish the aging structure. It agreed to delay action while the Historic Preservation Commission sought funding and a new site for it.

The contract sets an April 1 deadline with an automatic six-month extension in the case a site and funding had been secured by that time. Since it has, the new deadline is Oct. 1.

“If we just ignore it, the church tears it down,” said council President Fred Pitts.

Council members will hold a work session Tuesday to discuss the matter and will invite members of the Historic Preservation Commission.

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