Eight houses located on the east side of Old Hwy 45/North Gloster and one house on the west side of Old 45 in Tupelo are proposed for removal (demolition) by the National Park Service, America’s premier historic preservation agency. The original settlement included 35 units, and removal of these 9 houses will result in the demolition of almost half of the Tupelo Homesteads Historic District, which was listed on the National Register in 1997. Only 11 houses would remain, meaning 15 have previously been removed or demolished.
According to the May 23, 2019 Daily Journal, NPS wants to dismantle the houses because they were “unable to find anyone willing to restore or lease several buildings” (Dennis Seid).
While we don’t know the particulars of who looked at the buildings or why there hasn’t been much interest so far, we believe that it is incumbent on NPS, the agency that manages the National Register program and publishes articles about best preservation practices, to continue to work toward a solution that keeps the historic district intact and in use rather than throwing in the towel and walking away, which is the definition of bad preservation practice.
In 2017 when he wrote the Tupelo Homesteads entry in the Mississippi Encyclopedia, Fred C. Smith stated:
Remarkably well-preserved and faithful to original design…The Tupelo Homesteads remained distinct because they were transferred to the Interior Department for use as the headquarters of the Natchez Trace Parkway….The houses look very much as they did in the 1930s…the Tupelo Homesteads is the only New Deal community [in Mississippi] to retain its architectural, structural, and environmental integrity.
Whenever a federal agency undertakes a project, they have to consult with the state historic preservation office (SHPO), in this case, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, about how the undertaking will affect historic properties. If the SHPO says that it will have an “adverse effect,” then the agency has to go through a public notice process and invite comments from interested parties. This review and comment process is known as the Section 106 process because it is set out in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
As any good MissPreser knows, demolition is always an “adverse effect,” and obviously, MDAH told NPS so about this proposed project, which is how we got to this public notice stage.
Here’s the public notice as posted on the National Park Service website:
Natchez Trace Parkway Proposes to Remove Select Structures within the Tupelo Homestead Historic District
The Natchez Trace Parkway (Parkway) proposes to remove several structures within the Tupelo Homestead Historic District in Lee County, Mississippi. The houses were built in 1936 by the Resettlement Administration and transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1940.
The Parkway has been able to preserve a number of the structures by utilizing them as office space. In an attempt to preserve the remaining houses through a leasing program, the NPS issued a Request for Expression of Interest and held an open house to gauge public and/or private interest. In 2018, the NPS issued a Request for Proposals. We received a great deal of interest but no proposals. Unfortunately, the Parkway does not have the resources to manage the structures and has made the difficult decision to move forward with removing houses 1-3, 5 and 6, 8-10, and 25, and associated outbuildings.
In accordance with §106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and the Advisory Council’s regulations, 36 CFR Part 800, we invite the public to consult with the Parkway regarding the above-referenced undertaking.
The Homesteads were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The nomination document, which provides a historical overview of the property, and a location map are available at this link. As mitigation, the Parkway plans to conduct a Historical American Building Survey (HABS) to document the structures before removal. As mitigation, the Parkway plans to conduct a Historical American Building Survey (HABS) to document the structures before removal.
As Preservation in Mississippi has stressed time and time again, deferred maintenance and the subsequent demolition by neglect has caused the loss of many significant structures in the state.
Go here to comment and see a map of the structures proposed for demolition, photographs of the current condition, and the National Register of Historic Places Nomination form. Selecting the link will take you to the page where you can click to comment before tomorrow evening. Remember you only have today and tomorrow to comment! You don’t need to write a work of literature, just express how important it is that NPS reconsider and not adversely affect this National Register-listed historic district by demolishing these buildings.
Categories: Cool Old Places, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic American Building Survey (HABS), Historic Preservation, National Park Service, National Register, New Deal, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Tupelo