GRAND OPERA HOUSE

(MSU Riley Center)

2200 5th Street, Meridan, MS

(601) 696-2200

Status: Former Opera House; Formerly Abandoned; Theater

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Attribution: Michael Barera


History

In 1889 a half block area of Meridian was put under construction by Israel Marks and his three half brothers.

Originally, it was designed to be a department store and a hotel. Shortly after construction began, though, the plans for the hotel were changed to the creation of grand opera house. Financially it made sense, at the time the price for a high end show was about the same as a one night stay in a hotel with less overhead.

The opera house opened in 1890 booking the best of New York City shows.

In 1902 electricity was added to the building.

In 1920 it was converted into 2 movie theaters with projectors set up in the center of the building.

In 1923 it was leased to a film company for a period of 25 years. The film company soon attempted to turn the theater into an office building but were prevented from doing so by clause in the lease saying the building could never be used as anything but a theater.

This resulted in a law suit, when the film company refused to pay their rent, which the owners won. Unfortunately, the Great Depression began at the same time resulting in the renting company declaring bankruptcy. This chain of events left the opera house with no money and no option but to be closed.

In the 1960’s the building was covered in metal siding in an attempt to modernize it. In most people’s opinions all this did was remove the all the 19th century historical significance and beauty.

In 2000 numerous grants came together resulting in nearly $25 million for a complete restoration under the stipulation that the University of Mississippi take over care and operation of the building.

The former department store – which operated until the 1990’s – was converted into a conference center.

The original opera center includes both a 900 seat main theater and a 200 seat satellite theater.

 

Paranormal Activity

The theater is haunted by “The Lady” or possibly “The Ladies”.

Either way the identity of her – or them – is not known but she is definitely benevolent and seems to be happy to coexist with the living.

The most common way she makes her presence known is with cold spots which are frequently reported in the building.

Many people have reported an etheric feeling of her presence and – more rarely – feel a tap on their left shoulder by an unseen presence.

When the theater is empty and completely silent people have heard the voice of a woman singing.