Meridian Star

August 18, 2006

Turning back time at city hall

By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer

Former Meridian Mayor Al Rosenbaum remembers Meridian City Hall’s heydey — when the third floor had an auditorium and the city council had its own meeting chambers.

“They held high school graduations, plays, music recitals and major hearings in that room, but the outside looks just like it does today,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum was mayor from 1977 to 1985. He made no major changes to the exterior or interior of city hall during his terms, but recalled that the Meridian Police Department was completed just before he took office — which freed up the bottom floor for other uses.

Rosenbaum agrees with city officials’ decision to undertake a major restoration of the building.

The restoration of city hall is slated to begin sometime later this year. When complete, the building’s appearance should be reminiscent of the way it looked in 1915, the year it was built. The project is another step in city officials’ plan to restore downtown buildings.

The public will soon see the result of restoration work on the grand opera house, when the Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts opens on Sept. 8. In addition, city officials announced on Tuesday that a New Orleans firm will purchase the Threefoot building from Meridian with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel.

Architectural conservators recently spent time digging through the many layers of paint at city hall to uncover original surfaces — much the same process researchers used at the MSU Riley Center.

“Government buildings reflect the entire community and it sets the tone for the entire community,” said Ken Storms, chief administrative officer for the city. “It is owned by the people and it is for the people.”

Storms said he isn’t sure how much the work at city hall will cost, but it will be funded by a $10 million bond the city council approved earlier this year. The bond also will cover the cost of a new police department and remodeling at other city buildings which will be used temporarily to house city workers during the project.

The Meridian City Council on Tuesday chose George T. Fore & Associates of Raleigh, N.C., for consulting services related to the city hall restoration.

“The Beaux Arts design and the use of scagliola plaster, faux marbling and Tiffany glazing in the original treatments suggest that the city of Meridian intended that the principal public building be both impressive and inspiring,” Fore said in a letter outlining the scope of the work.

The restoration of city hall is expected to take two and a half to three years.

MORE DETAILS

To find out more about the restoration of Meridian City Hall, and how it will affect city offices, visit www.meridianms.org and click on the "City Hall is moving" icon in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.