In 2005, the City Council approved an amendment to the Code of Ordinances which consolidated and expanded the Urban Center District and the Union Station District into a single, contiguous, and larger district. The new Meridian Downtown Historic District runs from the railroad tracks north to Sixth Street between 18th Avenue and 26th Avenue, excluding Ragsdale Survey Block 71. Although many building resources have been lost since 1979, the district still boasts some 130 resources considered contributing elements to its historic character.
The Meridian Urban Center Historic District, created in 1979, corresponded closely with a fire district created in 1872. At that time, 25th Avenue was the principal north-south axis, and the streets running parallel to the tracks (Front, Fourth, and Fifth streets) began developing. During the 1880s through the 1920s, Meridian was the state’s largest city. Commercial success built on railroading resulted in an extensive range of late 19th- and early 20th-century architectural styles, from Italianate row buildings to an Art Deco skyscraper.
Initially created in 1979 as the Meridian Depot District, the Union Station Historic District lay east of the Urban Center District and contained Union Station, Terminal Hotel, General Supply Co., and the Soulé Steam Feed complex. In 1885, Meridian was the junction of five railroads, with three others considering coming into the city. From 1885 to 1905, this area was primarily residential, with a small industrial complex developing around the railroads. The original construction of the Union Station in 1905-1906 led to the development of this area in business and industry. The station’s official name changed in 2000 after the renovated Union Station Multi-Modal Transportation Facility was completed.
The origins of Highland Park can be traced back to 1889, when the area was used for the Meridian Fair and Livestock Exposition. The Fair and Exposition Corporation dissolved in 1906 and turned its property over to the newly formed Park Association. The Park Association was established as a nonprofit corporation in 1906 to assemble property and develop initial plans for Highland Park. The Meridian Light and Railway Company had a rail line from Eighth Street up 34th Avenue that turned west between 19th and 20th streets and continued west into Highland Park. When Highland Park was designed, there was already a national trend for “streetcar” pleasure parks. Electric railway companies ventured into increasing their operations by owning or investing in such parks. Meridian Light and Railway followed the national trend, cooperating with the city to provide band concerts.
Little architectural evidence of Meridian’s early history survives due to the Civil War. However, the significance of the East End Historic District lies in its extensive collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century Queen Anne/Colonial Revival cottages, representing Meridian’s “Golden Age.” Many of these cottages have repetitive designs, creating exciting and picturesque streetscapes. The cottages are also good examples of the work of the city’s numerous contractors, who kept pace with increasing housing demands as Meridian prospered at the turn of the 20th century.
The Mid-town Historic District is a collection of architecturally and historically important 20th-century residences representing the houses of Meridian’s wealthy industrialists, professionals and merchants, as well as the working class. The homes are associated with Meridian’s rapid growth at the beginning of the century, when the city was the center of Mississippi’s railroad economy. The district has many brick structures built as alternatives to the wooden-frame residences made famous by Meridian’s lumber industry and mills.
The Merrehope Historic District started developing after the Civil War but was subdivided about 1853 by city founder John T. Ball. Following the Civil War, Meridian’s economy boomed through railroading, lumbering, and textile enterprises. As Meridian began to grow northward, so did the need for housing. The housing development period for this district was from late 1860 through 1940.
Although the history of the West End Historic District can be traced from Meridian’s earliest days, its significance lies in its extensive collection of residences dating from 1890 to 1910. These residences are also complemented by buildings built before and after these dates, but this collection presents continuous streetscapes of historic buildings. The period of significance for West End dates from 1870 to 1936, representing the rise of Meridian from its destruction during the Civil War to the position of Mississippi’s largest city. The steady growth of Meridian’s economy made the city’s westward expansion possible.
The Highlands Historic District was known initially as Missouri Ridge because Union soldiers, primarily from Missouri, camped here and were engaged in a skirmish during the Civil War. With the advent of Meridian’s light rail streetcar system in 1883, the city began to grow northward. When the streetcar line reached this district, it provided transportation that allowed the area to develop.
The Poplar Springs Historic District is a collection of residences representing the prosperity of Meridian at the turn of the 20th century and during the pre-Depression era. The district developed around Poplar Springs Road (later Drive), a winding country road leading into the city’s north. Streets and plots were laid out, hills were cut down, and hollows were filled. Hundreds of shade trees were planted, and they still contribute to the streetscape of the Poplar Springs Historic District.