Vacant/not in use
Late 19th Century & 20th Century, Colonial Revivial
Brick Foundations, Wood Walls
The Spain House at 553 West Main Street, in Tupelo, Lee County, Mississippi is an excellent local example of Colonial Revival architectural detail influenced by the Queen Anne style in its massing. It is a frame two story gable on hip-roofed asymmetrically planned house that rests on a brick foundation.The exterior house has undergone a few alterations which have affected the style of the ornament including metal column covers, vinyl siding and porch soffits, and cast iron railings. The interior is composed of mostly wood floors, plaster walls and ceilings.
The major alterations of the house took place between 1946-1951 when the Spain family transitioned the first floor to the Spain Funeral Home and moved all the living quarters to the second floor. The major changes were removal of all evidence of the original kitchen on the first floor, and installation of a private kitchen on the second level. An ell projects from the southern wall, where a covered drive was enclosed. Other enclosures include a sunroom on the eastern elevation (that was formerly part of the wrap-around front porch) & an upstairs sleeping porch which faces south. Some interior trim work and light fixtures were altered during the same period.
The Spain House is located on a small lot on West Main Street, the primary east-west route in the city. The lot has a small lawn with mature trees. The neighborhood was historically residential with large homes, similar in scale to the Spain House, on small city lots. Over the years the residential buildings have been replaced by commercial and institutional structures. Although it was used as funeral home for many years, the Spain House is the one of the few residential scale building remaining on its block.
The primary elevation, facing West Main Street, is north. The full height entry has a pedimented portico with a gable roof which projects out of the main hip roof supported by two large stucco Doric columns. It stands independent from the full-width one story wrap-around porch. A second floor porch above the entry has a cast iron rail. The wrap-around porch has tongue-and-groove flooring and is supported by paired Doric columns. Decorative cast-iron railings have replaced the original wood railings. Single 1/1 double-hung wood windows, with original beveled glass, flank the first floor entry. The single-leaf front door has a transom and 1/1 sidelights. The cast-iron security door was added during the mid-twentieth century. On the second floor, paired 1/1 double-hung wood windows flank the second floor porch. Double-leaf multi-light doors allow access to the porch. Two hipped North facing dormers project out from the third attic level. The body of the house has vinyl siding, but decorative saw-tooth wood shingles appear in the gable front and below the second floor porch. The entire structure rests on a continuous brick foundation wall, with interior brick piers, that has cast-iron oval vents and an artistic brick turn at the corner.
The west façade reveals the Queen Anne massing. An end gable with a louvered vent projects out of the hipped main roof. Below the gable is a two story projecting bay. Original wood 1/1double-hung windows are centered on each side of the bay. A set of steps from the west side drive gives a secondary entrance to the porch. A few windows on the first floor appear to be spaced according to room layout. The second floor kitchen window dates approximately to 1948, and it is a set of three over four windows. On the southern end of the west façade, a single story ell with a hipped roof projects to the south. This area is generally referred to as the funeral prep area. In fact, this projection began as a drive for the Spain Funeral home hearses when the lower level began to function as a funeral home. It was later enclosed by the Spain family in the late 1960s. The walls are clad in vinyl siding.
The south (rear) façade of the house has been altered many places all in the mid-twentieth century. The main roof line is a gable that stretches left to right (west to east) over the bay projections. A central end facing gable projects from the main roof line. Beneath the gable, a set of five over six windows enclose the original second floor porch. A small two story ell with a shed roof encloses additional storage and dressing areas. The first floor hosts a square wood picture window that was added in the 1990s. A deteriorated wood ramp circles part of the rear to the parking area. The massing and fenestration of the east facade is very similar to the west façade.
Period of Significance
Mr. and Mrs. Robert L Pound lived in the house from c.1914 to 1948. Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Spain lived in the house and operated a funeral home in the house from 1948 to 1960.
The Spain House, built c. 1914, is locally significant as the home of two prominent Tupelo businessmen who made significant contributions to the community in the area of Commerce. Robert L. Pounds was a regionally prominent pharmacist during the early 20th century and was active in establishing an important banking enterprise. It was also the home and business of W.D. Spain, who operated the preeminent funeral home in the Tupelo area for more than two decades.
Narrative Statement of Significance
By the turn of the Twentieth Century, Tupelo Mississippi was quickly establishing itself as the progressive center of the Northeast Mississippi region. Many of the earlier towns, established and prospering during the antebellum period were still struggling to recreate themselves in the modern post reconstruction era. Tupelo boasted two railroad lines, a flourishing commercial district and was quickly establishing itself the as a center of Banking and Commerce. With water and sewage systems and a newly installed electric and light plant, the quality of life in the city of Tupelo far exceeded that of many surrounding towns and villages.
Because of these various factors, R.L. Pound, a resident of Aberdeen Mississippi, decide to attach his business interests to this rising commercial star. In 1890, he secured a business partnership in a newly launched, state of the art drug store and fountain, Pound, Kincannon, and Elkin (P.K.E), located on Main Street in the heart of the bustling commercial district. The drugstore was the first in Tupelo to have a soda fountain, and one of two soda fountains for decades. R. L. Pound, as the Business Manager of the firm, soon established himself as an important member of the community, always willing to assist in any programs that would enhance the economic and social welfare of the citizens of Tupelo as well as the farmers and residents of the outlying countryside. Pound was recognized as a highly respected pharmacist and was referred in newspaper accounts as the “Dean of Mississippi Pharmacists.”3 He continued in this business until 1918, when he sold his interest in the business to concentrate on banking and other investments. At that point, the drugstore’s name changed from P.K.E. to T.K.E (Thomas, Kincannon and Elkin).3 The building still stands on the Corner of Main Street & Spring Street in downtown Tupelo. Faded original signage still lays claim to the drugstore’s memory. The building has hosted many different businesses, including restaurants and business offices, and now lies vacant.
In 1904, the time was right for new type of banking concern to be established. There were to established banks in Tupelo at the time, one of rural bent which catered primarily to old aristocratic planter influence of the highly profitable farming interests, the other appealing to the growing commercial urban class. If Tupelo was to develop its potential as Northeast Mississippi’s commercial center, it would need a bank that was not controlled by either faction. In order to establish a bank that would belong “to the people”, a coalition formed by representatives from both factions. In February of that year, R.L. Pound was elected as a charter member of the Board of Directors of the Peoples Bank and Trust Company. The incorporators consciously choose that name as a way of announcing that this new bank was independent of political and social alliances and that it was truly “the people’s bank.”3
In his position as Board Member and one of three Majority Stockholders, R. L. Pound found himself in a position of influence in which to contribute to the progressive development of Tupelo and the entire Northeast Mississippi region. The Peoples Bank was the first bank in Lee County to establish a separate savings department; pay uniform interest rates on savings accounts; pay uniform interest rates on Time Certificates; use home savings banks; offer banking by mail; and, establish branches.3
Prior to the establishment of the Peoples Bank, interest rates paid by the other Tupelo banks varied according to the size of the account and, apparently, according to the customer. Peoples Bank advertised that uniform rates to all savers on all accounts regardless of the amount. 3The home savings banks and banking by mail were truly innovative for that period of times.
Mr. Pound was on the committee which was charged with designing a new Banking House. Upon its completion in December of 1905, Tupelo’s newest bank was described as one of the most handsome and commodious bank buildings in the state. The editor of the Tupelo Journal announced the building would add greatly to the appearance of Main Street.3
The bank was reorganized after the Depression & renamed “The Peoples Bank & Trust Company.” The name changed again in 2003 to Renasant Bank. In the late 1990’s, it was the 6th largest bank in Mississippi.3 Today, it is a nationally recognized bank, with over 75 offices in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. “Renasant prides itself on providing all the products of a large regional bank combined with the personal touch of a hometown community bank.”2 Renasant Bank is a FDIC member and an Equal Housing Lender. The original Peoples Bank building is still in use as the home of the Gumtree Museum, and it is listed on the National Register.
Over the next few years, R.L. Pound concentrated on his business and banking interest and in 1911 he purchased a lot on Main Street from S.T. Bonner and contracted the building of the gracious large home in which his family would reside well into the Twentieth Century.6 At the time neighborhood surrounding the Pound residence was considered the ‘silk stocking district” and the preferred residence of many of Tupelo’s wealthiest and influential families.
Mr. and Mrs. Pound maintained a quiet and genteel existence, entertaining in their gracious home and continuing their efforts to enhance the quality of life of their adopted home. Mrs. Pound became very involved with the Methodist Missionary Board and served as an officer in the Daughters of the Confederacy well into the 1940’s.3 The Main Street property was sold to the Spain family in 1946 at which time it was converted into Funeral Home with living quarters above. There are still many Pounds descendents in Tupelo, married into most every prominent family.7
The Pounds continued to live in the main street house until W.D. Spain and his wife, Letha Mefford Spain, purchased the home in 1946.6 At that point the Pounds moved to 118 South Green Street.5
After purchasing the house, the Spains lived upstairs and began operating Spain Funeral Home on the first floor sometime around 1951. The model of the kitchen dates the major alterations to 1948. The funeral home was in operation until 1965.5 Mr. Spain died in 1971 and according to City Directories, Mrs. Spain remained in the home until 1991.5 At that point the dwelling was leased to TRI, Inc., a real estate business, which continued to conduct business there until 2006. The home was purchased by Calvary Baptist Church in 2006.6
Mr. Spain was originally from Ohio, and a proud former U.S. Marine. Mrs. Spain was a school teacher at Lawhon Elementary. Mrs. Spain was very active in the Eastern Star & received advanced training at Mississippi State University. She also was proud to boast that she taught Elvis Presley during his time at Lawhon.3 The Spain’s moved to Aberdeen, MS sometime after they were married. The Spain & W.B. Harrison families moved from Aberdeen to open the funeral home together. Before moving to the 553 West Main address, the Spain’s had operated Harrison and Spain Funeral Home at 309 Troy Street while also living upstairs at that address.3 It is unknown why the partnership did not continue at this new address.
The Spains were not the only funeral home in town. Pegues Funeral Home is the oldest surviving funeral home in Tupelo, which began as a furniture company (and consequently sold caskets). Eventually, Pegues started running a funeral home operation and closed the furniture store. Pegues was the top competition of the Spain Funeral Home, and is still in operation today. However, the Spain’s prominent location along Tupelo’s main street was optimum. It was housed along the silk stalking district, which was locals referred to as wedding cake houses (because of the size, scale, and ornate detailing of the homes of the neighborhood). The Spain’s clientele were consequently top-notch. The Spain’s prepared and buried Judge C.P. Long, who was instrumental in many businesses in Tupelo, including the Tupelo Cotton Mill.3 The Spain family having previously lived in Aberdeen had close connections with south Lee county. Clientele included many families from Aberdeen, Nettleton, & Shannon. These familiar connections provided clients that were faithful to the Spain operation, even after its relocation to Tupelo.3
The Spain family made many deep connections with all they served, including their employees. One such example is Tommy Peebles, a former employee, who worked for the Spain Family’s funeral home during his adolescent & young adult years. The impact of the mentorship he received, inspired him to open his own funeral home, Peebles Funeral Home, in Somerville, Tennessee, which he still runs today.
Mr. & Mrs. Spain had a noteworthy son, Frank Kyle Spain. The Spain’s son, Frank, became a nationally known for his role in media particularly the area of television for his “milestone engineering development and construction of a telecommunication microwave system for Tupelo cable and television broadcasting in 1959. While Spain was not the first to provide microwave importation of distant television signals for cable distribution, his designs were among the first to use highly reliable solid-state circuits.” 1 Frank founded WTWV (currently WTVA), a television new station, in Tupelo. Frank “designed and built the antenna, transmitter, cameras, and all the ancillary equipment” needed to begin broadcasting.10 Even after his death in 2006, Jane Lingard Spain (Frank’s widow), continues to manage the station. The Spain’s heart for the community lived on in their son Frank. The younger Spains have been recognized for their philanthropy and community service, receiving numerous awards including: CREATE Foundation’s McLean Award for philanthropy 9. Frank Spain’s philanthropy extended to his collection of antique and unique cars which was donated to a non-profit foundation. He generously founded the Tupelo Automobile Museum which houses over 100 classically restored vehicles in a multi-million dollar facility. 10 The Spain’s legacy and impact continues to grow as time passes.
After the recommendation by the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission, the Tupelo City Council declared the house a local landmark in 2009.8 Since Tupelo’s downtown area was almost totally destroyed by the Tornado of 1936, there are very few structures that pre-date this time period and even fewer of this scale and design. Tupelo’s Main Street was lined with fine homes of this size and scale and they were often referred to as the “wedding cake homes.” The architecture, prominence and placement of this structure have made it an icon and landmark within the City of Tupelo. The true importance of this property lies in the fact that it is one of very few remaining examples of the elegant lifestyle that was achieved by the business acumen of a group of concerned residents which laid the groundwork for successful partnerships between agriculture and commerce which has continued to maintain Tupelo’s position as the bastion of progress in North East Mississippi.
Major Bibliographical References
1. Foote, Avon Edward. BLOG09. “MORE on Frank Kyle Spain.” http://www.chotank.com/classes/moreflor.html
2.Renasant Bank. 2010, December 01. http://www.linkedin.com/companies/renasant-bank
3.Lee County, Mississippi. Oren Dunn Museum. Oren Dunn Collection – Permanent Archives, Tupelo, MS
4.Lee County, Mississippi. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: 1910, 1918 Tupelo, MS
5.Lee County, Mississippi. City of Tupelo, Directories Tupelo, MS
6.Lee County, Mississippi. City of Tupelo, Tax Assessors Office Tupelo, MS
7.Lee County, Mississippi. Oren Dunn Museum. North MS Historical & Geneological Society Tupelo, MS
8.Lee County, Mississippi. Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission Tupelo, MS
9.Seid, Dennis. “Spain, Cranes honored by CREATE for philanthropy.” Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. 2010, November 05. http://www.allbusiness.com/society-social-assistance-lifestyle/philanthropy-charities/15266278-1.html
10.Pelger, Gary. “Featured Museum: The Tupelo Automobile Museum.” National Association of Automobile Museums. Volume 8, Issue 4, Fall 2006. 2010, December 01. http://www.naam.museum/newsletters/naam-fall-06.pdf