NPS plans to demolish . . . er . . . “remove” several National Register-listed Tupelo Homesteads. Tell them what you think by June 28!

tupelo homesteads 3

Arthur Rothstein, 1935. Tupelo Homesteads Library of Congress Archives. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017758982

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.

Read more . . .

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

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21 replies

  1. So sad! 😓

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  2. oh, dear! how can one ‘fight city hall’???? is there ‘enough’ in the eventual surviving structures ‘for posterity’? (i don’t know that i can write anything right now, but would like to help in some way, if possible–what could you recommend as the minimal one could do?)

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    • The minimal is click that link, and take 5 minutes or less to make a comment. You do not have to leave any information other than your city, state, and zip code. You can choose to leave other information. Just say do not demolish them, that there are other options that could be considered, and whatever you think because of who you are that communicates it matters what we do with our history.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Please save the houses in the Tupelo homestead district. My family is old Tupelo residents. My stepfather worked at WELO radio station and taught Elvis how to play the guitar. My family has lived there since the 1920’s. Once these historical homes are lost they are gone for ever never to be anyone’s memories again. Please reconsider this decision.

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  4. I strongly implore the NPS not to demolish these significant National Register-listed properties. Just because no one came forward in 2018 to take on their preservation, does not mean that NPS should remove them. That goes against NPS’ historic preservation mission. Sometimes the timing has to be right and the stars have to align for the right person(s) to come along who will preserve and use a historic structure. I’ve seen this happen many times in my 35+ years as a historic preservation professional. There is no chance of that happening if the NPS moves forward with its demolition plans.

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  5. I just found this site. I did not know about preserving Mississippi but am learning. I recently bought an older house in Desoto County MS. On the 7 acres, it had an old Barn, two old storage sheds plus a well house with another small room attached. I hired someone to tear these down. I was sure there were some antiques in the old well house & told the demolition team they could have whatever they found. When they took the white siding off the well house, it turned out to be a log cabin. Neighbors say it was surely over 150 years old! The team is trying to sell the logs. I sure hated to tear down the log cabin but I purchased this for an investment and was trying to clean up the 7 acres. People came from all around to see it before we took it down. I have pics if anyone would like to see.

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  6. I grew up in house 1. It breaks my heart that these HOMES are deteriating and plans for tearing them down. If I could move that house to property in Mantachie I would. It is even sadder that my nephew stopped by to see his grandparents home a few weeks back and he was handcuffed for trespassing. A bit overboard I would say. He just wanted to go down memory lane. The NPS that I grew up in where families were close, worked together and played together has become a cold heartless organization.

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  7. Be sure to leave your formal comments to NPS on the NPS site–comments here are welcome, but the only ones NPS will consider are the ones that are submitted through their site: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=396&projectID=83820&documentID=95398

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  8. Tupelo has built at least part of its legacy on being a TVA city – these house were some of the first home in the State with electricity from TVA. We need to preserve these as part of our heritage!

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  9. will try to do so later today, if i can!

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  10. yes, made my comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. And interestingly, the front page of the Washington Post this morning reports: “The National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with President Trump’s Independence Day celebration…”

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