Save Merrehope for Me'
TOUR IN PROGRESS Willard Clearman, right, shows Shaunah Lawler, left, Sarah Hatala, Danny Lawler and Matt Sanchez a feather bed in an upstairs bedroom during a tour of Merrehope. The group from Vero Beach, Fla., learned about Merrehope from a tour book and stopped on their way to Birmingham. This is Clearman's seventh year as a hostess at Merrehope. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
July 14, 2002
Merrehope and the F.W. Williams house are two of Meridian's historic treasures and both are in need of repairs.
So members of the Meridian Restoration Foundation, which helped restore Merrehope nearly 40 years ago, will begin a "Save Merrehope for Me" campaign July 22 to raise public support.
Merrehope is a 20-room Victorian mansion originally built in 1858 as a three-room cottage by one of Meridian's original settlers, Robert McLemore.
The home changed owners five more times. It stands on Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Drive one of less than six buildings left intact after Union Gen. Tecumseh Sherman's campaign in February 1864
The F.W. Williams house was built around 1886 by Frank W. Williams as a wedding present for his wife, Mamie. The house was moved to the present site near Merrehope in December 1978.
Foundation begins work
In 1968, the Meridian Restoration Foundation bought Merrehope for $20,000 and began to restore it. It opened to the public in 1972.
The name Merrehope comes stands for "Meridian," "restoration" and the "hope to continue to preserve."
Over the years, the more than 300 women who belonged to the Meridian Restoration Foundation has diminished to about 100 members.
This is where the "Save Merrehope for Me" campaign comes in.
Members preserves history
Karen Kimberl, who is serving as secretary and treasurer of the foundation this year, is not a native of Mississippi, but has a love for history.
Recently, McKee said, a friend told her that the heyday of Merrehope was over. McKee said she doesn't believe that.
Merrehope accepts help in most every form.
Several times a year Naval Air Station Meridian volunteers clean the home and work in the yard. This summer, student Chris Walters, 14, has mowed the yard and cleaned the flower beds.
Homes have expenses
The cost of keeping Merrehope and the F.W. Williams homes open six days a week is tremendous. The foundation pays about $2,500 a month for insurance and utility bills alone.
Extra money is raised through weddings, receptions, catered candlelight dinners and parties.
The home recently was the setting for an episode of "A Dating Story" on the Learning Channel. The Merrehope edition is expected to air nationwide in September.
The Riley Foundation recently gave Merrehope a $38,000 grant if it raises the same amount of money by January 2003. The money will fund repairs, including flooring, painting and plastering.