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franklin county times

In my own words…
We saved Merrehope once; we can do it again

By Staff
Anne McKee is president of Meridian Restorations Foundation Inc.
By Anne McKee / special to The Star
July 21, 2002
During the morning hours of Feb. 14, 1864, Gen. Sherman of the Union Army marched his troops into Meridian with only one thought on his mind to burn Meridian to the ground and destroy the railroads.
He accomplished his mission by 10:30 a.m. (or so he thought) and as he rode out of Meridian, he declared, "Meridian no longer exists." He had spared only a few buildings and one of these was the original portion of the house we now call Merrehope because it was being used as the federal headquarters.
That is why this house called Merrehope is such a wonderful historic treasure not only for Meridian but for anyone who is a respecter of history. In later years Merrehope was made larger and embellished with its grand stairway and Victorian architecture.
Sitting adjacent to Merrehope is the beautiful F.W. Williams Home with its Queen Anne style architecture and beautiful furnishings (some of which are original with the house.) Mr. Frank Williams was a true visionary in the insurance industry. He more than any one person in the state of Mississippi brought in more insurance business successfully and productively and to this very day the business can be traced to his efforts. A true favorite son of Meridian.
Just as recently as April of this year, Mr. Williams was honored with the "Insurance Hall of Fame" award. The very first award given in the state by the state insurance board of directors.
I have stated all of the above to say this: We at the Meridian Restorations Foundation Inc. were in the business of historical preservation before it became a "buzz word." In the early 1960s a group of very courageous ladies formed a group to save a historic treasure which later became known as Merrehope ("Mer" for Meridian, "re" for restore and "hope" for the many years ahead to keep the house intact.)
A few years later, the F. W. Williams home was moved from Eighth street and placed next to Merrehope. Since that time (more than 40 years) the foundation has struggled to maintain these two houses and do the repairs as needed.
Now it seems that we have come to "a fork in the road." By this I mean that the operating expense of both houses is more than $2,500 monthly and this amount does not include repairs. At this point in time we are in desperate need of a roof for the Williams home with an estimated cost of $50,000. This house also needs to be painted. The summer drought in Mississippi is very serious no doubt; however this summer it has benefited the Williams home because, you see, we must place buckets out to catch the rain! What a shame! We just can't stand by and let the rainwater ruin all the valuable inside furnishings.
Merrehope is also in need of repairs and painting.
We implore the community to rally around Merrehope/F.W. Williams one more time. We saved them once, surely we can do it again.
We encourage anyone who is a lover of history to get involved in this battle. We would hope that anyone who benefited from the success of Mr. Williams and are either retired or still in the business of insurance today to join with us in anyway possible.
According to the bylaws of the Meridian Restorations Foundation, associate membership is encouraged. We would like to stress that the foundation is not a closed organization. It is open to anyone as a member. Associate membership or "the friends of Merrehope" is set up to accommodate busy people. You only help the foundation when you have the time and are not obligated to be a member of a club.
In the past 40 years the foundation was made up of members of seven clubs. But we at the foundation realized that we are not in the 1960s any longer and we must gird ourselves to the 21st century, where people hold careers but still are committed to their special activities which they adopt.
Time is running out and the needs are great. We at the Meridian Restorations Foundation Inc. consider it an honor and a privilege to oversee these two wonderful houses. But we need your help.
I hope that you have stuck with me to read this entire recitation. There are some who told me you would not, that you would toss this aside after the first paragraph. But just as I have hope for the future of Merrehope and the F.W. Williams Home; I have the hope that you will do the right thing.
Please know that we at the Meridian Restoration Foundation are confident that there is a positive solution to the needs of Merrehope and the F.W. Williams Home, and that working together as a community we can make it happen.

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