Ladies wearing hoop skirts and men in Confederate soldier uniforms formed the background as the Restoration Foundation and public officials told a crowd of perhaps fifty the two historical homes need financial and volunteer help, if the buildings are to be saved.
"I think it's time for this community to embrace these homes as our homes," said Mayor John Robert Smith, "to give time and resources to save Merrehope, not just for me but for mine, for my children and my grandchildren, your children and your grandchildren. For all these to stand inside these walls and feel part of the history of Meridian."
There is a serious need for capital improvement money. The Williams home needs a new roof, estimated to cost about $50,000, plus other repairs. Both structures need painting.
In addition, there is a continuing $2,500 per month operating cost for utilities and insurance. Tourism Director Sandy Bynum acknowledged the necessary dollars will have to be generated locally.
"Museums cannot depend on tourist traffic," said Bynum. "The Holocaust Museum in Washington is just about the only one that makes money off of visitors because you can't charge enough ticket price. So you have to do it through sponsorships and other venues such as having events."
Plans for those events are now taking form. Meanwhile, the Restoration Foundation is looking for volunteers to help save two of Meridian's most historic buildings.