Rumblings and Bumblings from Meridian

I can’t find anything about this on the Meridian Star site (I don’t think they put all their articles online though), but I’ve heard from a couple of sources that after what appears to me to be a study with a pre-ordained conclusion, the proposed Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center project will include the demolition of the Meridian Hotel building, the five-story structure that rises just adjacent to the bridge going over the railroad into downtown.

The first I remember hearing about this proposed project was back in July 2010, and here’s what I had to say then:

And a rare article out of Meridian–am I wrong but do we hardly ever hear anything from that part of the state except about the Threefoot Building?–about the downtown site chosen for a new museum, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. According to the article in the Meridian Star:

Museum board members say an architect will decide whether to renovate the current buildings on the property or demolish them and construct a new building.

The buildings in question–one of which is the old Meridian Hotel–are right in the heart of the downtown historic district and are very prominent as you cross the bridge into downtown, so let’s hope they will be renovated instead of demolished. I wish the board members would be more cognizant of the property they have acquired and not be throwing around demolition options from the start. When I first moved to Mississippi, many moons ago, Meridian had one of the most intact turn-of-the-20th-century urban environments in the state, older than Jackson’s downtown. Now, after years of losing one building here, one building there, two buildings over here, it is diminished considerably–still impressive, but disheartening to those of us who knew it before.

Built around 1910, and probably one of the earliest “skyscrapers” in Meridian, the hotel is listed on the National Register and is part of Meridian’s local historic district. My sources also tell me that the Meridian Historic Preservation Commission has possibly already given a demolition permit on this project, which, if true, is pretty astonishing. If the preservation commission isn’t protecting the historic districts, who is?

Anyone have any further information about this project? I would love to find out that I’m wrong here. The hotel looks to me like a mini-King Edward Hotel, and actually from the exterior seems in better shape than the KE was when it was fixed up a few years ago. Why can’t Meridian take a cue from that project and see the potential in this building?



Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Hotels, Meridian, Preservation Law/Local Commissions

13 replies

  1. And didn’t I read that there is a shortage of housing in the Downtown area? I think this was in the Meridian Star in late spring.

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  2. I’m truly puzzled that the Meridian Hotel could not be renovated into a boutique hotel, offices, apartments or any number of uses. Demolishing it seems incredibly shortsighted.

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  3. What in the world is going on in this town? Do they not respect anything historic. It is truly sickening to tear this down and obviously the HP commission is ruled by the purses of the town. Sad little town Meridian is becoming. When will they learn this is so important?

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  4. Please, this is an important fight. Once this is lost, so will so much more. It is up to the Citizens to fight City Hall. It is worth saving. For those they do not understand, it does NOT cost more to renovate in the long run. It is better for the history of the City. Look at waht has been lost.

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  5. I had the opportunity to tour the old hotel prior to demo and as a civil engineer I concluded that the structural integrity of the building was shot.

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  6. Is the site already gone? I visited downtown Meridian yesterday and couldn’t seem to find it.

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  7. I just happened upon this preservation site and plan to start regularly reading it. I am an historic preservationist in Meridian and know a little more about the loss of the Meridian Hotel. My father visited the hotel more than 25 years ago and noted that the foundation was sinking. The floors were wavy and uneven throughout the building. Old-timers told me that the hotel owners added 2 more floors than originally planned while it was under construction in 1907. I thought this was the reason the building had so many structural problems. I also saw the long steel plates and bolts holding the building together on 22nd Avenue wall.

    The previous owners (before MS Arts and Entertainment) had hoped to restore the hotel. They restored the neon sign to operation and all indications were made that it would be renovated. I was told the owner had a historic building structure report done by a noted preservation architect from Texas. I have not seen that report, but was told that the building suffered major foundation damage when plumbing work was done years ago. Trenches were dug inside the building near the foundation to install or repair pipes. The dirt was not compacted when replaced. The foundation walls began shifting, hence the bulging wall and sinking floors. I certainly hated to see the Meridian Hotel come down because it framed the gateway to downtown Meridian. I especially loved the warm brown brick.

    The Grand Hotel (Country Corner) on the opposite corner was also lost due to improper repairs and lack of maintenance. The southeast corner of the building collapsed during the 1906 tornado. The corner loss, a triangular wedge across two floors, was rebuilt without putting back the windows of the original design. The masons also did not “knit” this solid masonry wall into the original wall. It was stuccoed on the exterior and plastered on the inside and looked fine for many years. Unfortunately, 2″+ cracks outlining the wedge-shaped damage had appeared in the wall by 1987. It was a serious flaw and scared me enough to walk away from it when it was offered for sale. I believed that the corner would have to completely come down and be properly rebuilt. By 2011, the roof had completely rotted away and the interior was pretty much gone when it was torn down.

    Structurally sound historic buildings should be saved without hesitation and we should fight every effort to raze them because some people believe they are too old, look bad or have sellable building materials. Most replacement buildings will never have the quality construction or lifespan of historic structures built before World War II.

    I have also learned that sometimes we cannot overcome the “sins of the past” that have been perpetrated on historic structures.

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Trackbacks

  1. MissPres News Roundup 6-13-2011 | Preservation in Mississippi
  2. “Because for instance the Meridian Hotel is much older, we feel it’s best to tear it down” « Preservation in Mississippi

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