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Restoring faded glory

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
June 8, 2003
Dr. Winter Wood Dawson's dental office, as best I can recall, was located on the 6th floor of the Threefoot Building. I went to see him regularly as a child and two things remain ingrained in my memory to this day:
The heavy glass and wood door that marked the entrance to his office. Through the thick glass, I could see the shadowy shapes of assistants and other patients moving about inside his clinic; and,
The smell of medical and chemical things I certainly did not understand at the time, all of which I eventually associated with relief from pain. A lot of checkups, a filling here and there, the clean, clinical smell and, of course, Dr. Dawson's skills contributed to my belief that a good dentist really can work wonders.
Over these intervening years between childhood and middle age, things have changed. Dental technology has improved and there are wonderful new treatments for tooth problems.
Still, even given the times and what now must appear to be outdated technology, Dr. Dawson took care of his patients. He encouraged three-times-a-day brushing and fully endorsed my parents' insistence on good oral hygiene.
Dr. Dawson's dental clinic was located in what then was prime real estate in downtown Meridian. He was by no means alone because the Threefoot Building was filled with offices and reflected the hustle and bustle of busy people in a busy city.
The top floor was occupied by Meridian radio station WOKK, which allowed members of the Meridian High School Key Club to take over one day a year for "radio day." We sold ads and did commercials as a Key Club fund-raising project. On the air our few minutes of fame we talked and laughed and played a little music and probably made a general nuisance of ourselves.
Today, I shudder to think what we must have sounded like. But the folks at WOKK were very patient and supportive even as they faced the frightening prospects of teenagers in their studios. If we ever broke anything, I was not aware of it. Or maybe we just never knew about it.
The Threefoot Building was a center of activity, a downtown landmark that could be seen from afar because at 15 stories it was the tallest building in town. It made a statement for both form and function architecturally appealing.
Plans
And then the once grand old building fell into disuse, its immense structure casting a shadow over downtown that, in some ways, was a literal illustration of the overall decline in Meridian's central business district over a period of years.
Now comes businessman Howard Robbins of Mobile, Ala., who bought the Threefoot Building in 1988 and has been pondering renovation plans for about five years. Robbins told Meridian city council members last week he plans to renovate the building into a hotel and residential condominiums that can serve the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center and, presumably, other visitors.
Mike Harrell of Harrell Construction Inc., finishing up a $2.5 million Harley Davidson store near Bonita Lakes Mall, would serve as general contractor of the project.
Whatever Robbins told council members during their closed session convinced them to reverse previous votes and add 47 more parking spaces and a sixth floor to the Arts District Parking Garage, at an additional cost to the public of about $249,000.
Meridian's downtown will never be what it once was; it can be better. It could be that the faded glory of Meridian's most distinctive landmark can be restored.
I hope so.

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