A Tudor Revival-style house in a historic Tupelo neighborhood adds new rooms but keeps its original look.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Tonya Heidel Lipscomb has loved the house in which she now lives since she was a young girl. Her family lived in Yates Acres near Thomas Street, but she’d see the Highland Circle neighborhood and the Tudor Revival-style house on her way to Carver School.
Her husband, Drew Lipscomb, grew up in the Pierce Street neighborhood but moved with his family to Madison Street when he was a 10th grader. He had friends who lived in Highland Circle. So, both Lipscombs were familiar with the neighborhood and the house from their childhoods.
When they married, they lived on Madison Street, within shouting distance of Highland Circle and the house Tonya loved. Six years and three sons later, she heard rumblings that the house might be going on the market.
“I called to check on the house, and it was for sale,” she said. “It just all sort of happened.”
Drew Lipscomb was not quite as smitten with the house as his wife was.
“I liked it, but not as much as she did,” he said. “But when I saw the potential the house had, I fell in love with it, too.”
On Sept. 11, 2002, the Lipscombs purchased 640 Highland Circle, and soon after made the short move from Madison Street with then-6-year-old Andrew, 2-year-old Miller, and 6-month-old Alex. Daughter Ally Ayers came along a few years later.
The Tudor Revival-style house was built in 1929 by Word Baker, one of three Tupelo businessmen who wanted to form a new neighborhood north of the center of town. The Communities Development Corporation was made up of Baker, S.J. High and Phil Perabo. The house is thought to be one of the first two houses completed in Highland Circle, a neighborhood that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Holding true to Tudor Revival style, the Lipscomb home features a steep-pitched gable roof, brick exterior with timber accents, arched or elaborate doorways and tall windows that often have diamond- or rectangular-shaped panes. The interior features a lot of wood, including trim and ceiling beams.
The home originally had three bedrooms and one bath. A previous owner turned the attic into an additional bedroom, added a bath and closet, making the house four levels, including the basement.
“The house got taller, but not wider,” Drew Lipscomb said.
Through the years, the Lipscombs have completed several renovations. The first project, around 2010, was to renovate the upstairs bath. In 2017, the kitchen received a makeover.
And in 2019, the family took on a major renovation that, for the first time, added on to the depth of the house.
“What we’ve done has been mostly cosmetic,” Tonya Lipscomb said. “To be almost 100 years old, the bones of the house are so good. We’ve had very few problems.”
Of course, the Lipscombs were questioned about adding on when their children are grown and have left or will soon be leaving home.
“But COVID brought them all home,” she said. “So, it was perfect timing. We utilized the added space.”
A new den, a study and a porch were added off the rear of the house. There’s an entire wall of built-in bookshelves in the study, and the middle section serves as a hidden door. Behind the door is a hidden hunting closet where all manner of hunting equipment and clothing are kept out of sight.
“I got an idea for the hidden closet in a magazine,” Tonya said. “I asked John Pittman (of Pittman Cabinets) if he could build it, and he did.”
Drew Lipscomb gives credit to his wife of 26 years for the latest renovation.
“It was her vision,” he said. “She made it happen.”
And both Lipscombs praise architect Linda Smith and contractor Mike Williams.
“I knew whatever we did, I wanted it to look like it fit the rest of the house,” Tonya said. “I told Linda what I wanted, and she took it and ran with it. She is just brilliant. She took all my ideas and brought them to life.
“And Mike has a gift for taking a historical house and renovating while maintaining the integrity of the house. The new doors and windows are nearly identical to the ones original to the house. He did an amazing job.”
Williams is the owner of Stonegate Construction and has been building for 35 years. While he builds new homes, he is particularly fond of renovating older homes.
“It’s different,” he said. “You can’t just go in and add on; you have to take time and make sure things match. The most important thing we try to do is make the renovation, the addition, look like it’s always been there.”
Smith, principal architect and owner of ArchitectureSouth, spends much of her time on commercial projects, but enjoyed getting creative with the Lipscombs’ residential project.
“Working on an older home like this one provides unique challenges,” Smith said. “For example, there are things used in older homes that can’t be matched anymore, like the slate roof.”
But Smith found a way around the roof issue by making a flat roof that’s hidden behind parapets.
“Something that made this house extra special is how much of the original character of the house was still there, no matter how many owners it might have had,” she said.
According to the Lipscombs, Smith and Williams exceeded their expectations in every way.
“We are so happy with the addition,” Tonya said. “We got very lucky. We found people to work with that didn’t think my ideas were crazy.”