Meridian in the Beginning: Avery House

A while back, I ran a post lauding city directories and especially the 1889 Meridian directory that included a section called “Metropolis of the Southwest” with beautiful line drawings of landmarks in the boom town that was Meridian in the 1880s. Many of these buildings were right in what is now the downtown core, and very few remain. All were interesting and most, if still standing, would be included in coffee table books about Mississippi and southern architecture. Today’s building is so long gone that I can’t find any information about it, other than what I can derive from the Sanborn maps.

The Capt. A. B. Avery House was a two-story, brick Italianate house that looks like it had the octagonal columns that Frazer Smith found so charming in his description of Columbus in “White Pillars,” or are those just fluted? The house appears on the first available Sanborn map, in 1886. Meridian did have a few antebellum homes, most famously “Merrehope“, but just going from the appearance of the Avery House, it looks more post-bellum, with those segmental arched windows, but still early for Meridian, maybe early 1870s?

1889 Sanborn map, showing Avery House in gray shading

Downtown Meridian was growing by leaps and bounds in the late 1800s, and by the 1902 Sanborn, the house–probably less than 30 years old–was shown as a boarding house. In 1912, the last Sanborn to show the house indicates that it was being used as the “Meridian Medicine College.” Strangely, this Sanborn shows the house as three stories high, in contrast to our picture of the building and previous Sanborns, so possibly a third story was added to the house, which would have been very unfortunate for its appearance, I expect.

The next Sanborn map for Meridian, inexplicably, isn’t until 1950 (come on Sanborn men, you couldn’t make it back to the largest city in Mississippi for 40 years?), and it shows a large 3-story brick commercial building, labeled “Standard Drug Company,” covering about half of the site previously occupied by the Avery House. Looking in the National Register information, we find that the Standard Drug Company building is listed on the National Register, and the nomination says that the new building was built in 1920; so we know that the Avery House was torn down sometime between 1912 and 1920, maybe before it even turned 50.

1912 Sanborn map--has a third floor been added?

Maybe somebody out there can tell us who Capt. A. B Avery was and more about the history of the house.

Categories: Architectural Research, Lost Mississippi, Meridian

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