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Historic buildings torn down by mistake

In Tupelo, two buildings that were part of the historic Carnation Milk Plant - a site protected by both local and national historic registries, were razed during a clean-up effort, though Public Works did not check in with Tupelo's Historic Preservation Commission first.

Posted: Dec. 26, 2017 7:46 PM
Updated: Dec. 26, 2017 10:09 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Tupelo, a city manager accidentally ordered the demolition of two small buildings that, it turns out, were protected assets of both local and national historic registries. WTVA'S Mike Russell spent much of the day after Christmas investigating the slip-up, and filed this report.

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TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - In Tupelo, two small buildings -- a storage area and a managers office that were part of a historic set of structures in Tupelo’s Mill Village at the Carnation Milk Plant -- were demolished without permission.

A little backstory...

The Carnation Plant opened in 1927. It was part of a thriving industrial district, and it operated for 45 years in a part of the city about a mile square known as Tupelo Mill Village. It dates back to 1901. Over the last few decades, though, the plant has run down -- and become a shelter of sorts for Tupelo's homeless. In the last several years, the city has looked for investors to develop the property and in the meantime has worked to clean up the lot around it, and built new sidewalks. And always interested in preserving the flavor and history of Tupelo earlier years, the city moved the Spain House nearby to the adjacent lot. Both are protected assets of local and national historic registries.

But in early December, Tupelo Chief Operations officer Don Lewis, working with Public Works, mistakenly had a storage building and manager's office near the plant demolished. It quickly came to light that they were part of a collection of historic structures, and Lewis owned up to the mistake immediately. But though folks in historic circles say they've worked successfully with Lewis and the city before, the buildings are lost forever.

"A quick decision was made without thinking through it, about the implications of it just to try to get it cleaned up," says Doyce Deas of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission. "And certainly, it looks cleaner and nicer to the casual passerby, but the unfortunate part is that we've lost a historic building -- and you just don't get those back when they're demolished."

Don Lewis says there was no malice intended. He said the clean-up was done out of efficiency’s sake, and to help keep the area safe. Without exception, everyone in Tupelo’s historic circles gives him the benefit of the doubt, though they lament the loss of the buildings. And now city managers are all more keenly aware of the need to check in with the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission and the Tupelo Historic Preservation Society.

FINAL NOTE: Historical authorities are asking the city to move a tall metal tower to a neighborhood park on Spring Street.

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