Meridian, Mississippi facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
|City of Meridian|
A view of downtown from the third floor of Meridian City Hall; the 16-story Threefoot Building dominates the skyline
"A Better Longitude On Life"
Location of Meridian in Lauderdale County
|Incorporated||February 10, 1860|
|• City||118.8 km2 (45.9 sq mi)|
|• Land||116.9 km2 (45.1 sq mi)|
|• Water||1.9 km2 (0.8 sq mi)|
|Elevation||105 m (344 ft)|
|• Density||342.0/km2 (885.9/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0673491|
Meridian is the sixth largest city in the state of Mississippi, United States. It is the county seat of Lauderdale County and the principal city of the Meridian, Mississippi Micropolitan Statistical Area. Along major highways, the city is 93 mi (150 km) east of Jackson, Mississippi; 154 mi (248 km) west of Birmingham, Alabama; 202 mi (325 km) northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana; and 231 mi (372 km) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee.
Established in 1860, at the intersection of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway of Mississippi, Meridian's economy was built on the railways and goods transported on them, and it became a strategic trading center. During the American Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman burned much of the city to the ground in the Battle of Meridian (February 1864).
Rebuilt after the war, the city entered a "Golden Age", as it become the largest city in Mississippi between 1890 and 1930, and a leading center for manufacturing in the South, with 44 trains arriving and departing daily. Union Station, built in 1906, is now a multi-modal center, giving access to the Meridian Transit System, Greyhound Buses, and Trailways, averaging 242,360 passengers per year. Although the economy slowed with the decline of the railroad industry, the city has diversified, with healthcare, military, and manufacturing employing the most people in 2010. The population within the city limits, according to 2008 census estimates, is 38,232, but a population of 232,900 in a 45-mile (72 km) radius and 526,500 in a 65-mile (105 km) radius, of which 104,600 and 234,200 people respectively are in the labor force, feed the economy of the city.
The area is served by two military facilities, Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field, which provide over 4,000 jobs. NAS Meridian is home to the Regional Counter-Drug Training Academy (RCTA) and the first local Department of Homeland Security in the state. Key Field is named after brothers Fred and Al Key, who set a world endurance flight record in 1935. The field is now home to the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Air National Guard and a support facility for the 185th Aviation Brigade of the Army National Guard. Rush Foundation Hospital is the largest non-military employer in the region, employing 2,610 people.
Among the city's many arts organizations and historic buildings are the Riley Center, the Meridian Museum of Art, Meridian Little Theatre, and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. Meridian was home to two Carnegie libraries, one for whites and one for African Americans. The Carnegie Branch Library, now demolished, was one of a number of Carnegie libraries built for blacks in the Southern United States during the segregation era.
The city has been selected as the future location of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center (MAEC). Jimmie Rodgers, the "Father of Country Music", was born in Meridian. Highland Park houses a museum which displays memorabilia of his life and career, as well as railroad equipment from the steam-engine era. The park is also home to the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, a National Historic Landmark. It is the world's only two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie in existence. Other notable natives include Miss America 1986 Susan Akin, James Chaney – an activist who was killed in the Mississippi civil rights workers murders in 1964, and Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics headquartered in Meridian. The federal courthouse was the site of the 1966–1967 trial of suspects in the murder of Chaney and two other activists; it was the first time an all-white jury convicted a white official of a civil rights killing.
Previously inhabited by the Choctaw Native Americans, the area now called Meridian was obtained by the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 during the period of Indian removal. After the treaty was ratified, European-American settlers began to move into the area.
After receiving a federal land grant of about 2,000 acres (810 ha), Richard McLemore, the first settler of Meridian, began offering free land to newcomers to attract more settlers to the region and develop the area. Most of McLemore's land was bought in 1853 by Lewis A. Ragsdale, a lawyer from Alabama. John T. Ball, a merchant from Kemper County, bought the remaining 80 acres (0.32 km2). Ragsdale and Ball, now known as the founders of the city, began laying out lots for new development on their respective land sections.
There was much competition over the proposed name of the settlement. Ball and the more industrial residents of the city supported the name "Meridian," believing the term to be synonymous with "junction"; the more agrarian residents of the city preferred "Sowashee" (meaning "mad river" in a Native American language), from the name of a nearby creek; and Ragsdale proposed "Ragsdale City." Ball erected a station house on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad – the sign on which would alternate between "Meridian" and "Sowashee" each day. Eventually the continued development of the railroads led to an influx of railroad workers who overruled the others in the city and left "Meridian" on the station permanently. The town was officially incorporated as Meridian on February 10, 1860.
Meridian was a small village at the start of the American Civil War in 1861. Its strategic position at the railroad junction led to the Confederate construction of several military installations to support the war. During the Battle of Meridian in 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led troops into the city, destroying the railroads in every direction, as well as an arsenal and immense storehouses; his forces burned much of the buildings to the ground. Sherman is reported to have said afterwards, "Meridian, with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists." Despite the destruction, the railroad lines in the city were rapidly repaired, back in operation 26 working days after the battle. Race relations remained tense during the Reconstruction era, with the riot of 1871 following a fire that damaged many businesses.
The town boomed in the aftermath of the Civil War, and experienced its "Golden Age" from 1880 to 1910. The railroads in the area provided for a means of transportation and an influx of industries, which caused a population boom. As the population rose, commercial activity increased in the downtown area. Between 1890 and 1930, Meridian was the largest city in Mississippi and a leading center for manufacturing in the South. Many of the city's historic buildings were built during and just after this era, including the Grand Opera House in 1890, the Wechsler School in 1894, two Carnegie libraries in 1913, and the Threefoot Building, Meridian's tallest skyscraper, in 1929.
The city continued to grow thanks to a commission government's efforts to bring in 90 new industrial plants in 1913 and a booming automobile industry in the 1920s. Even through the stock market crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression, the city continued to attract new businesses. With escapism becoming popular in the culture during the depth of the Depression, the S. H. Kress & Co. building, built to "provide luxury to the common man," opened in downtown Meridian, as did the Temple Theater, which was used as a movie house. The federal courthouse was built in 1933 as a WPA project.
After a brief slowdown of the economy at the end of the Depression, the country entered World War II, which renewed the importance of railroads. The rails were essential to transport gasoline and scrap metal to build military vehicles, so Meridian became the region's rail center again. This renewed prosperity continued until the 1950s, when the affordability of automobiles and the subsidized Interstate Highway System drew off passengers from the trains. rails. The decline of the railroad industry, which went through considerable restructuring among freight lines as well, caused significant job losses. The city had a population decline as workers left for other areas.
During the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Meridian was home to a Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) office and several other activist organizations. James Chaney and other local residents, along with Michael Schwerner, his wife Rita, and Andrew Goodman, volunteers from New York City, worked to create a community center. They held classes during Freedom Summer to help prepare African Americans in the area to prepare to regain their constitutional franchise, after having been excluded from politics since 1890. Whites in the area resented the activism, and physically attacked civil rights workers. In June 1964, Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman went to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to meet with members of a black church that had been bombed and burned. The three disappeared that night on their way back to Meridian. Following a massive FBI investigation, their bodies were found two months later.
Seven Klansmen, including a deputy sheriff, were convicted by an all-white jury in the federal courthouse in Meridian of "depriving the victims of their civil rights" and three were acquitted in the Mississippi civil rights workers murders trial. It was the first time that a white jury had convicted "a white official in a civil rights killing." In 2005, the case was reopened by the state, which brought charges in the case for the first time. Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Meridian later honored Chaney by renaming a portion of 49th Avenue after him and holding an annual memorial service.
Starting in the 1960s and following the construction of highways that made commuting easier, residents began to move away from downtown in favor of new housing subdivisions to the north. After strip commercial interests began to move downtown, the city worked to designate several areas as historic districts in the 1970s and 80s to preserve the architectural character of the city. The Meridian Historic Districts and Landmarks Commission was created in 1979, and the Meridian Main Street program was founded in 1985.
Meridian Main Street organized several projects to revitalize downtown, including the construction of a new Amtrak Station in 1997 based on the design of the historic train station used during Meridian's Golden Age; it had been demolished. Other projects included the renovation of the Rosenbaum Building in 2001 and Weidmann's Restaurant in 2002, as well as support for integrated urban design. Meridian Main Street, along with The Riley Foundation, helped renovate and adapt the historic Grand Opera House in 2006 for use as the "Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and the Performing Arts."
After ownership of the Meridian Main Street was transferred to the Alliance for Downtown Meridian in late 2007, the two organizations, along with the Meridian Downtown Association, spearheaded the downtown revitalization effort. The Alliance serves as an umbrella organization, allowing the other two organizations to use the its support staff and housing, and in turn the Alliance serves as a liaison between the organizations. Plans were underway to renovate the Threefoot Building, but newly elected Mayor Cheri Barry killed the plans in early 2010. Today, the Alliance helps to promote further development and restoration downtown; its goal is to assist businesses such as specialty shops, restaurants, and bars because these help downtown become more active during the day and at night. The Meridian Downtown Association is primarily focused on increasing foot traffic downtown by organizing special events, and the Meridian Main Street program supports existing businesses downtown.
|Great Southern Hotel (1890)||Hotel Meridian (1907)|
|Union Hotel (1908)||Lamar Hotel (1927)|
Given Meridian's site as a railroad junction, its travelers have attracted the development of many hotels. Even before Meridian reached its "Golden Age," several large hotels, including the Great Southern and the Grand Avenue hotels, were built before the start of the 20th century. With the growth of the railroads and the construction of the original Union Station in 1906, many hotels were constructed for passengers and workers. The Elmira Hotel was constructed in 1905, and the Terminal Hotel was constructed in 1910. Hotel Meridian was constructed in 1907, and Union Hotel was built in 1908. Union Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and both Hotel Meridian and Grand Avenue Hotel were listed as contributing properties to the Meridian Urban Center Historic District.
As the city grew, the hotels reflected ambitions of the strong economy, as evidenced by the eleven-story skyscraper Lamar Hotel built in 1927. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Lamar Hotel was adapted for use as a county annex building. In 1988 it was listed as a Mississippi Landmark.
The E.F. Young Hotel was built in 1931. A staple in the African-American business district that developed west of the city's core, the hotel was one of the only places in the city during the years of segregation where a traveling African American could find a room.
As the city suburbs developed in the 1960s and '70s, most hotels moved outside of downtown. Rehabilitation of the Riley Center in 2006 has increased demand and a push for a new downtown hotel. The Threefoot Building has been proposed for redevelopment for this purpose, but restoration efforts stalled with a change in city administrations. The Threefoot Preservation Society was formed in 2013 to raise public awareness and support for the building's renovation, featuring tours of the first floor and anniversary events.
Meridian has nine historic districts that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Meridian Downtown Historic District is a combination of two older districts, the Meridian Urban Center Historic District and the Union Station Historic District. Many architectural styles are present in the districts, most from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Italianate, Art Deco, Late Victorian, and Bungalow. The districts are:
East End Historic District — roughly bounded by 18th St, 11th Ave, 14th St, 14th Ave, 5th St, and 17th Ave.
Highlands Historic District — roughly bounded by 15th St, 34th Ave, 19th St, and 36th Ave.
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad north to 6th St between 18th and 26th Ave, excluding Ragsdale Survey Block 71.Meridian Downtown Historic District — runs from the former
- Meridian Urban Center Historic District — roughly bounded by 21st and 25th Aves, 6th St, and the railroad.
- Union Station Historic District — roughly bounded by 18th and 19th Aves, 5th St, and the railroad.
Merrehope Historic District — roughly bounded by 33rd Ave, 30th Ave, 14th St, and 8th St.
Mid-Town Historic District — roughly bounded by 23rd Ave, 15th St, 28th Ave, and 22nd St.
Poplar Springs Road Historic District — roughly bounded by 29th St, 23rd Ave, 22nd St, and 29th Ave.
West End Historic District — roughly bounded by 7th St, 28th Ave, Shearer's Branch, and 5th St.
|Source: US Census data|
The city's growth has reflected the push and pull of many social and economic factors. The total population increased in each census from the city's founding until 1970, although varying from rates as high as 165% to as low as 0.2%. In the 1970 census the population decreased, then slightly increased by 1980, after which the population slowly declined, increasing again since the turn of the 21st century. Between 1980 and 2000, the population declined more than 14%. As of the census of 2000, the city's population was 39,968, and the population density was 885.9 inhabitants per square mile (342.0/km2). In 2008, the city was the sixth largest in the state. The population increased as of 2010.
Meridian is the principal city in the Meridian micropolitan area, which as of 2009 consisted of three counties – Clarke, Kemper, and Lauderdale – and had a population of 106,139. There is a population of 232,900 in a 45-mile (72 km) radius and 526,500 in a 65-mile (105 km) radius.
While the overall population growth of the city has varied, there has been a steady growth in the number and percentage of non-white residents. The only decline in this group was between 1960 and 1970, when the city's overall population declined markedly. In the 2010 Census, the racial makeup of the city was 61.55% African American, 35.71% White, 0.9% Asian, 0.2% Native American, <0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.75% of the population.
According to the 2000 Census, of the 17,890 housing units inside city limits, 15,966 were occupied, 10,033 of them by families. 31.1% of occupied households had children under the age of 18, 36.2% were married couples living together, 23.3% consisted of a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.06. The average household size has steadily decreased since 1970, when it was 3.04. Meridian's median age has increased from 30.4 in 1970 to 34.6 in 2000.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,085, and the median income for a family was $31,062. Males had a median income of $29,404 versus $19,702 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,255. About 24.6% of families and 28.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.8% of those under age 18 and 22.0% of those age 65 or over.
The population of Meridian and its surrounds is fairly observant, with 65.2% of Lauderdale County identifying as affiliated with some type of religious congregation, compared with the national average of 50.2%. Of the affiliated in 2000, 30,068 (59.0%) were in the Southern Baptist Convention, 9,469 (18.6%) were with the United Methodist Church, and 1,872 (3.7%) were associated with the Catholic Church.
Immigrant Jews from Germany and eastern Europe were influential in commercial development of the city, building businesses and services. Congregation Beth Israel was founded in 1868, just before the city's "Golden Age." Meridian once had the largest Jewish community in the state, with 575 Jewish people living in the city in 1927. Today, fewer than 40 Jews live in Meridian, most of whom are elderly.
Geography and climate
Meridian is located in the North Central Hills region of Mississippi in Lauderdale County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.9 sq mi (119 km2), of which 45.1 sq mi (117 km2) is land and 0.8 sq mi (2.1 km2) is water. Along major highways, the city is 93 mi (150 km) east of Jackson, Mississippi; 154 mi (248 km) west of Birmingham, Alabama; 202 mi (325 km) northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana; 231 mi (372 km) southeast of Memphis, Tennessee; and 297 mi (478 km) west of Atlanta, Georgia. The area surrounding the city is covered with oak and pine forests, and its topography consists of clay hills and the bottom lands of the head waters of the Chickasawhay River.
The natural terrain of the area has been modified in the urban core of the city by grading, but maintains its gentle rolling character in the outlying areas. Numerous small creeks are found throughout the city and small lakes and woodlands lie in the northern and southern portions of the city. Sowashee Creek runs through the southern portion of the city and branches off into Gallagher's Creek, which flows through the center of the city. Loper's Creek runs through the far-western part of the city while smaller creeks including Shearer's Branch, Magnolia Creek, and Robbins Creek are dispersed throughout the city.
Meridian is in the humid subtropical climate zone. The average high temperature during summer (June through August) is around 90 °F (32 °C) and the average low is around 70 °F (21 °C). In winter (December through February) the average maximum is around 60 °F (16 °C) and minimum 35 °F (2 °C). The warmest month is July, with an average high of 92.9 °F (33.8 °C), and the coldest month of the year is January with an average low of 34.7 °F (1.5 °C).
The average annual precipitation in the city is 58.65 in (1,490 mm). Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, and the wettest month of the year is March, in which an average of 6.93 in (176 mm) of rain falls. Much rainfall is delivered by thunderstorms which are common during the summer months but occur throughout the year. Severe thunderstorms – which can produce damaging winds and/or large hail in addition to the usual hazards of lightning and heavy rain – occasionally occur. These are most common during the spring months with a secondary peak during the fall months. These storms also bring the risk of tornadoes.
|Climate data for Meridian (Meridian Regional Airport), Mississippi|
|Record high °F (°C)||83
|Average high °F (°C)||56.5
|Average low °F (°C)||33.1
|Record low °F (°C)||0
|Precipitation inches (mm)||5.13
|Snowfall inches (cm)||0.2
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||9.8||9.9||9.4||8.6||9.0||10.1||11.6||9.4||7.2||7.4||8.7||9.9||110.9|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.3||0.1||0.1||0.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.1||0.6|
|Source #1: NOAA (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1944–present)|
|Source #2: The Weather Channel (records)|
Known for more than a century of arts, Meridian contains many art and cultural organizations and hosts many cultural events. One of the first art organizations in the city, The Meridian Art League, was established in February 1933. Art exhibitions were originally held in Lamar Hotel in downtown Meridian, but after a name change to Meridian Art Association in 1949, exhibitions were held at various locations around the city. After the Carnegie library at 25th Ave and 7th St was closed, the Art Association remodelled the building into the Meridian Museum of Art to serve as a permanent home for exhibits. The museum was opened in 1970 and has since featured rotating exhibitions as well as many educational programs for both students and adults. Over thirty exhibitions are held annually, ranging from traditional decorative arts to ethnographic and tribal materials, photography, crafts, and many other works of art. The collection also includes 18th and 19th century portraits, 20th century photography, and several sculptures.
The Meridian Council for the Arts (MCA) was founded as Meridian's and Lauderdale County's official arts agency in 1978. MCA operates its Community Art Grants program, the annual Threefoot Festival, several workshops, and other special events each year. MCA is partnered with many arts organizations in the city and county including the Meridian Museum of Art, the Meridian Little Theatre, and the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. Meridian Little Theatre, one of the South's oldest subscription-based community theatres, was built in 1932 and currently provides entertainment to residents of and visitors to Meridian and Lauderdale County, entertaining over 22,000 guests each season, making it Mississippi's most-attended community theatre. The Meridian Symphony Orchestra (MSO) – founded in 1961 – played its first concert in 1962 and its first full season in 1963. In 1965 the MSO booked its first international soloist, Elena Nikolaidi, to perform with the orchestra. The Orchestra helped the Meridian Public School District develop its own orchestra and strings programs and also helped develop the Meridian Symphony Chorus. The current conductor is Dr. Claire Fox Hillard, who has been with the orchestra since 1991. The MSO will celebrate its 50th anniversary in February 2011 with a performance from Itzhak Perlman.
The city's former Grand Opera House was built in 1889 by two half brothers, Israel Marks and Levi Rothenberg. During its operation the opera house hosted many famous artists and works, the first being a German company's rendition of Johann Strauss II's "The Gypsy Baron". After closing in the late 1920s due to the Great Depression, the opera house was abandoned for nearly 70 years. A $10 million grant in 2000 by the Riley Foundation, a local foundation chartered in 1998, sparked the building's restoration while $15 million came from a combination of city, county, and federal grants. The opera house's renovation was completed in September 2006 under the new name "Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts." The Riley Center, which includes a 950-seat auditorium for live performances, a 200-seat studio theater, and 30,000 sq ft (2,787 m2) of meeting space, attracts more than 60,000 visitors to downtown Meridian annually for conferences, meetings, and performances.
Meridian is rightly considered an architectural treasure trove being one the nations most intact cities from the turn of the last century. Architecture students from around the nation and Canada are known to visit Meridian in groups as part of their coursework due to numerous structures in the city having been designed by noted architects. The only home in the US south designed by noted Canadian born Architect Louis S. Curtiss, famous for inventing the glass curtain wall skyscraper, is extant on Highland Park. The Frank Fort designed Threefoot Building is generally considered one of the best Art Deco skyscrapers in the US and is often compared to Detroit's famed Fisher Building. Noted California Architect Wallace Neff designed a number of homes in Meridian as well as in the Alabama Black Belt which adjoins the city across the nearby Alabama State line. He had relatives in Meridian and Selma who were executives in the then thriving railroad industry and would take commissions in the area when commissions in California were lean. His work is mostly concentrated in the lower numbered blocks of Poplar Springs Drive where his 2516 Poplar Springs Drive is often compared to the similarly designed Falcon Lair, the Beverly Hills home in Benedict Canyon of Rudolph Valentino. One Neff work was lost to an expansion of Anderson Hospital in 1990 and another in Marion Park burned in the 1950s. The Meridian Post Office with its interior done entirely of bronze and Verde marble is also noteworthy as a very fine example of the type of Post Office structures built in thriving and well to do cities in the 1920s and originally had Lalique lighting which was removed sadly during a 1960s remodeling and which are now in private residences on Poplar Springs Drive and in North Hills.
Meridian has also been selected as the future location of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center (MAEC). The Mississippi Legislature approved the idea in 2001 and in 2006 promised $4 million in funding if private contributors could raise $8 million. The city donated $50,000 to the cause in September 2007. The MAEC, as proposed, would be located on 175 acres (71 ha) at Bonita Lakes and consist of an outdoor amphitheatre, an indoor concert hall, and a Hall of Fame honoring Mississippi artists. The Hall of Fame will be located downtown in the old Montana's building. That property and the adjacent Meridian Hotel building were acquired in July 2010 for $300,000. In February 2009, the MAEC revealed its Walk of Fame outside of the Riley Center in an attempt to promote the planned Hall of Fame. The first star on the walk was dedicated to Jimmie Rodgers, a Meridian native. In September of the same year, the second star was revealed, recognizing B.B. King, a famous blues musician from Mississippi. On June 1, 2010, authors Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner were added to the walk. Sela Ward was added to the walk on June 24, 2010. The MAEC plans to add many more Mississippi-born stars to the Walk of Fame; names mentioned include Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, and others.
Another location in the city used for large productions is the Hamasa Shrine Temple Theater. The Temple Theater houses a 778-pipe Robert Morgan organ, one of two Theater Organs still in their original installations in the state. With seating for 1800 persons, the silent movie era was a prosperous time for the Temple. At the time, it was one of the largest stages in the United States, second only to the Roxy Theater in New York City. Today, seating 1576 persons, the Temple is used year-round for area events, live stage shows, plays, concerts, Hamasa Shrine functions, and public screenings of classic movies.
Highland Park houses a Jimmie Rodgers museum which displays the original guitar of "The Singing Brakeman" and other memorabilia of his life and career, as well as railroad equipment from the steam-engine era. In addition to the museum building itself, there are outside memorials, and a vintage steam locomotive on display. A Mississippi Blues Trail historic marker has been placed in Meridian to honor the city as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers and emphasizes his importance to the development of the blues style of music in Mississippi. The city was the first site to receive this designation outside the Mississippi Delta. Also, a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker was placed in Oak Grove Cemetery in honor of Rodgers on June 1, 2010. Each year since 1953, the city has held a festival during May to honor the anniversary of his death.
The park is also home to a 19th-century carousel manufactured around 1895 by Gustav Dentzel of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Highland Park Dentzel Carousel has been in operation since 1909, is a National Historic Landmark, and is the world's only two-row stationary Dentzel menagerie in existence. Its house is the only remaining original carousel building built from a Dentzel blueprint. Around Town Carousels Abound is a public arts project of 62 carousel horses, representing the historic carousel. Sixty-two pieces have been sponsored by local businesses and citizens, and design of the horses was conceived and painted by local artists. They are placed throughout the city and county.
The city contains several recreational parks, including Highland Park, Bonita Lakes, and Okatibbee Lake. Highland Park contains picnic shelters, swimming pools, tennis courts, a baseball field, softball fields, and a playground, all open year-round to visitors. Bonita Lakes is a city-owned, 3,300-acre (13 km2) park including three lakes. The park also includes the Long Creek Reservoir and Lakeview Municipal Golf Course, along with nature trails, a jogging and walking track, biking paths, horseback riding trails, pavilions, picnic facilities, boat ramps, paddle boats, concessions, and fishing. Along with the lakes, the Bonita Lakes area includes Bonita Lakes Mall, Bonita Lakes Crossing, and Bonita Lakes Plaza. Okatibbee Lake is a 7,150-acre (28.9 km2) establishment containing a 4,144-acre (16.77 km2) lake which offers boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, picnicking, hunting, hiking and camping. Splashdown Country Water Park, a 25-room motel, and cabins are located on the lake.
Since 1992, Meridian has been a host of the State Games of Mississippi, a statewide annual multi-sport event modeled after the Olympic Games. The organization is a member of the National Congress of State Games, which is affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee. In its first year 1,200 athletes competed in twelve sports, and since then over 70,000 athletes have participated in the Games. In 2009, more than 4500 athletes participated in 27 sports. All competitors in the games can compete in the Southeast Sports Festival, while medalists may move up to the bi-annual State Games of America.
Originally the games were held in one weekend in June, but as more sports were added, the event was expanded to two weekends. Opening ceremonies always begin on the third Friday in June in downtown Meridian. The games are held at several sports parks, including Northeast Park, Sammie Davidson Complex, and other various fields throughout the city. Northeast Park is an 85-acre (34 ha) park on Highway 39 that contains ten tennis courts, four softball fields, three soccer fields, an asphalt track, and a large picnic pavilion. The Sammie Davidson Sports Complex includes six tennis courts, four softball fields, and a half-mile track. Other sports fields include the Meridian Jaycee Soccer Complex, Sykes Park, and Phil Hardin Park.
There are also several golf courses in the city, including the aforementioned Lakeview Municipal Golf Course, an 18-hole course open to the public daily. Briarwood County Club, located on Highway 39 North, is a private club with golf, swimming, fishing, and dining facilities. Other golf courses serving the city include Northwood Country Club, Okatibbee Creek Golf Center, and Ponta Creek Golf Course.
Railroads and public transit
Amtrak's Crescent line connects Meridian with the cities of New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Union Station Multi-Modal Transportation Center (MMTC) is located at 1901 Front Street, part of the Meridian Downtown Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in 1906, but later demolished in 1966 then rebuilt in 1997, the station includes several modes of transportation including the Meridian Transit System, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern rail corridor, Greyhound buses, Trailways and other providers of transit services. The number of passengers on Amtrak trains, Greyhound buses, and Meridian Transit System buses averages 242,360 per year.
The city is served by Meridian Regional Airport, located at Key Field, 2811 Airport Boulevard South, 3 mi (4.8 km) southwest of the city. At 10,004 foot (3,049 m), the airport's runway is the longest public runway in Mississippi. The airport, which has been in service since 1930, offers daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.
During the Great Depression, residents of the city contemplated abandoning the airport because of the cost of maintenance, but in 1935 Brothers Fred and Al Key, managers of the airport, thought of a way to keep the airport operating. From June 4 until July 1, 1935, the brothers flew over the city in their plane, the "Ole Miss." The record they established in their 27 days aloft, totaling 653 hours and 34 minutes, attracted enough publicity and funds to the city to keep the airport running. Key Field is therefore named after the brothers, whose flight endurance record remains unbroken in conventional flight.
- Interstate Highways
Runs west through Jackson, Mississippi, eventually terminating near Kent, Texas, and east through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, eventually terminating in Florence, South Carolina.
Joins with I-20 in the city and runs north through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, ending in Wildwood, Georgia. It also runs south through Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and on to Slidell, Louisiana.
- U.S. Highways
U.S. Highway 11
Runs parallel to Interstate 59 south to New Orleans, Louisiana, and north all the way to the Canada–US border.
U.S. Highway 45
Transnational route which runs north through Columbus, Mississippi, to the US-Canada border and south through Quitman, Mississippi, to Mobile, Alabama, and the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Highway 80
Runs west through Jackson, Mississippi, to Dallas, Texas, and east through Demopolis, Alabama, all the way to Tybee Island, Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean.
- State Highways
Mississippi Highway 19
Runs north to West, Mississippi, and south to the Mississippi-Alabama border, where it continues as Alabama State Route 10.
Mississippi Highway 39
Begins in Meridian and runs north to Shuqualak, Mississippi.
Mississippi Highway 145
Formerly US 45, but now only exists as an alternate route in several cities.
Mississippi Highway 493
Begins in Meridian and runs north to Lynville, Mississippi.
In popular culture
Dill Harris, one of the characters of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), is from Meridian, which is mentioned throughout when referencing Dill's home.
Images for kids
Meridian City Hall after restoration efforts
Meridian, Mississippi Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.