A Tupelo couple rebuilds a century-old house on family acreage to transform it into their dream home.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
The place Amanda and Jason Hayden call home is in the Belden community on a portion of 130 acres that have long been in Amanda’s family. The 102-year-old house the couple rebuilt — with help from a few friends — is also part of Amanda’s family.
Before the home had its current address, it sat a few miles further south on McCullough Boulevard, but in 1960, Amanda’s maternal great-grandfather, David Scott, bought the house and had it moved close to where it now sits.
“The house was cut in half in order to move it,” Amanda said. “Actually, it’s been moved twice.”
Multiple family members called the house home through the years. The Haydens moved in and spent nearly a decade in the house before purchasing it in 2015 from Bobbie Scott, Amanda’s
maternal grandmother, now 91 and living next door.
“The house was pretty much just falling down around us,” Jason said.
The structure had been sitting on the ground for years, causing a great deal of damage especially on one side. While crucial foundation work was being done, the couple asked workers if they might just pick up the house and move it a little closer to the lake that sits behind it. They did.
The couple, both 43, have been married 19 years and have owned and operated Cafe 212 in Tupelo for 17 years. They’d talked about one day finding their dream home.
It was a stomach bug that grabbed hold of Amanda and prompted a serious conversation about improving the then one-bathroom house.
“After that, we decided to add a second bathroom and a porch,” she said.
From there, the Haydens’ plans began expanding. Adding a bathroom and a porch morphed into adding an entire second floor and three porches. The house was pretty much taken down to the studs to begin again. A project they thought would take six months to a year ended up taking five years.
“We loved this spot with the lake,” Amanda said. “My brother lives across the street; my parents live down the road; and my grandmother lives next door. We decided just to make this house our dream home.”
The Haydens sing the praises of a trio of creative friends who helped with the renovation. Gary Campbell designed the kitchen; Josh Knighton did much of the custom woodwork, like countertops, floating shelves in the kitchen and more; and Jeremy Lewis did the screened back porch, which is home to an oversized swing built by William Riley, Amanda’s dad.
Much of the work on the house was done by Jason and his father-in-law.
“I learned everything from her dad or from YouTube,” he said. “For three and a half or four years, I was here after we finished at the cafe every single day. I’d work here until after sundown, and I was burned out. That’s when we started hiring people out to come do work.”
Lots of lessons were learned in the five years the Haydens renovated. Amanda shares one she hopes might help others.
“I would tell anyone who owns their own business and has thoughts of building or renovating to hire a contractor,” she said.
Very few cross words were exchanged by the couple during the renovation of the house they share with Oso and Biscuit, two adorable pups.
“We are used to working with each other,” Jason said. “We both stressed together over the same things.”
Amanda nodded her head in agreement.
“And Jason knows when I need space,” she said.
When members of her family finally were able to see the finished house, their kind words served as affirmation that the job was well done. At Christmas 2022, the Haydens hosted family and had 54 guests.
“Most of them said they didn’t even recognize the house the way we’d opened it up,” Amanda said. “They loved it.”
And the couple’s love for their dream home is evident as they proudly offer a tour of the house’s interior, starting in the living room with a mantel that is original to the house. Lined up above the mantel are old cameras from Amanda’s collection. On the opposite side of the living room is Jason’s favorite thing — a patchwork wall made up of various sizes, kinds and colors of wood.
“I wanted one wall where all the original wood from the house could be seen,” he said. “Of course, over the course of five years, our vision changed, but this one didn’t.”
If Amanda has a place in the house she favors over others, it would likely be the place she calls her pillow fort — the alcove only steps away from the top of the stairs. It’s a perfect spot for reading, thinking, napping, and it’s been claimed by Amanda.
The house is made up of many treasures, most accompanied by stories of where things came from and how the Haydens ended up with them.
Like her husband’s favorite patchwork wall, Amanda’s favorite thing hangs on a wall in the wide middle hallway. It’s a flag emblazoned with “Welcome to Visala,” a city in California. Ironically, she found it folded up in an antiques store in Pensacola, Florida. She paid $10 for it and saved it for when she had her forever home.
“I did some research on the flag and learned it was from a festival that used to take place in Visala,” she said. “One woman I spoke to wanted to buy it from me, but I told her I would not sell for any price. The flag finally has a home.”
There’s a fireplace built from the bricks of old Tupelo streets.
“When the workers were taking up the bricks, we’d trade coffee for bricks,” Amanda said, laughing. “Some of the bricks are out at the Oren Dunn Museum.”
One treasure, original to the house, was almost destroyed by a saw, but Jason noticed writing on a board and stopped. Scribbled onto a board used in the construction of the house was this: “C M Powell built this house in the fall of 1921.” The board now hangs in a place of prominence at the foot of the staircase.
A door from the Bank of Okolona was made into pocket doors in the downstairs bathroom. The door handles came from the New York Plaza Hotel. An old bar door that was once part of the TKE building (Thomas, Kincannon & Elkin Drug Store) at 202 West Main St., is now part of the kitchen. The kitchen, by the way, was designed around a table and bench seats — a corner breakfast nook — Amanda found on Craigslist. The backsplash came from tin Jason found out in the pasture. The sliding barn door that opens into the game room was built by Jason out of wood from Vanelli’s on North Gloster Street that was destroyed by a tornado in 2014. The game room walls are old floorboards, and a restored vintage pinball machine graces one corner.
“A whole lot of Tupelo history was forced into this house,” Jason said.
As the tour continues, it’s clear that it all fits — every piece of history that means something to the Haydens — as if it is exactly where it was meant to be.
“I feel like anytime someone comes over for the first time, it’s like I’m trying to explain and introduce who I am through my house and my collection of treasures,” Amanda said. “It’s kind of a weird and vulnerable experience. But our hands were in everything. This house is so custom, it’s just how we envisioned it.”