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Endangered Threefoot

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released its list of the "11 Most Endangered Historic Places" and the Treefoot Building in Meridian is on it, due to threat of demolition.


(these are pics I took of it a few years ago)

Threefoot Building, Meridian MS

Threefoot Building Detail, Meridian MS



(If you think about it, of all the places in the US the National Trust has to choose from to try to most protect by putting out its annual Most Endangered list, it's huge for the Threefoot building to be included.)

On the Trust website:

In 1930, the citizens of Meridian, Mississippi, had never seen anything like the newly dedicated Threefoot Building, a shiny, 16-story Art Deco skyscraper that was the tallest building in the state.


Named for its owners, a successful German-American family in Meridian, the building was admired for its decorative polychrome terra cotta and granite exterior and lavish interior details, including marble flooring and wainscoting, cast-plaster walls and ceilings, and etched bronze elevator doors. Although the Threefoot family lost their prized property in the Depression, the building was a mainstay of downtown Meridian for decades until it closed in 2000 because of deterioration and extensive upper-floor vacancies. Hopes were buoyed when the building's owner, the City of Meridian, began negotiations with a developer who planned to renovate the building and turn it into a hotel, but the City later abandoned that plan.

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The Art Deco Queen of Meridian continues to deteriorate, and locals fear that her next date may be with the wrecking ball.

In the last several years, the building has experienced significant deterioration. Terra-cotta tiles are falling off the facade, water is infiltrating in several locations and windows are in poor shape. Without immediate action, portions of the masonry are at risk of falling into pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Even though a developer expressed interest in the building, the City of Meridian was unable to provide funds for gap financing or other incentives – and now locals fear that the City Council will attempt to remove the building from the Mississippi Landmark List in order to pave the way for its demolition.

The Clarion-Ledger has a small article about it today.

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What the Trust didn't mention was that the family who owned the building, the Threefoot brothers, started out with a wholesale grocery business. When the Depression hit, this speculative building wiped out the family and one of the brothers - Sam - jumped off it to commit suicide. Simon Marx, who convinced Sam Threefoot to build it, also killed himself. It's just a tragic story.

While many other Threefoots are buried in Meridian (Kutcher, Julia, Tarris...), Sam is buried in the Jewish section at Live Oak cemetery in Selma:
Sam Threefoot

...and I just have to show you this - unrelated - that we found also in the Jewish section at Live Oak:
Stonewall Jackson Lilienthal

Threefoot is the English variation on their family name, which before they came to the US was Dreyfus. To English (from German), Dreyfus translates like this: Drey (3) fus (foot).

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The Trust put this YouTube video out which is really just a slideshow (I suggest you turn your speaker volume down, at the end is an alarm clock going off):

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