Like any beautiful jewel, the MSU Riley Center deserves a great setting. Historic downtown Meridian provides exactly that, with great dining, a spectacular hotel, local craft beers and other libations, intriguing museums, and can’t-miss shopping.
A 1920s Art Deco skyscraper now houses The Threefoot Hotel, Meridian. Locally owned restaurants for pre-show dining include Mississippi’s oldest, Weidmann’s, and Harvest Grill, with its ever-changing chef’s creations. If you have a taste for Thai, Jamaican jerk chicken, or Italian food, you’ll find that nearby too. Beer aficionados will love Threefoot Brewing and Brickhaus Brewtique.
The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, affectionately known as The MAX, is one of six distinctive downtown museums. And save time to shop the dozen-plus locally owned boutiques for clothing, gifts – even guitars or premium cigars.
A Message from Terry Dale Cruse
Terry Dale Cruse, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President
Head of Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus
In 1889, half brothers Israel Marks and Levi Rothenberg began building a magnificent five-story department store in the heart of Meridian, with a Grand Opera House attached. The combination made sense. Where better to purchase your finest attire for the evening than the Marks-Rothenberg department store?
Store and theater quickly took their places at the center of community life. The Grand Opera House featured productions that originated in New York and toured the country by rail: minstrel shows, vaudeville acts, operas and operettas, stage plays. When silent movies became popular, the theater added a projector and screen.
Filmgoers began to prefer ornate new movie palaces. The Grand Opera House went dark in 1927. For decades, as the department store thrived, declined, and finally closed in 1990, the theater sat virtually untouched.
Community leaders and Mississippi State University shaped a new vision for the once-vibrant buildings. In 2000, The Riley Foundation made an anchor contribution of $10 million, stipulating that the university own and operate the facility.
The $25 million renovation gutted the old store and built a conference and meeting center around the lovingly restored Victorian gem of a theater. In September 2006, the Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts opened. The Riley Foundation then partnered with the university to remodel the other two historic structures on the block.
Today, the Riley Center, the Deen Building, and the Rosenbaum Building constitute the Riley Campus of MSU-Meridian, home to the university’s health science programs. Once again, they stand at the center of life in Meridian – catalysts for the continuing renaissance of the city’s historic heart.