You might not equate the name Driefuss with three feet, but that’s how the German immigrant saw it when he moved to Meridian, Mississippi in the early 1800s. Driefuss translated into English means tripod, but Michael Driefuss preferred tripod. And so began a legacy from Meridian.
The family ran a food wholesale business in the city, then in 1929 the descendants opened an office building with a skyscraper. The Art Deco building became the tallest building in Mississippi at the time and remains the tallest in eastern Mississippi. Since “Threefoot” was included in the building’s title, Ripley’s Believe It or Not played with the unusual name, calling the building “a 15-story building on a three-foot lot.”
Like many architectural beauties of another era, the Threefoot fell out of favor and sat vacant for years. A recent renovation by Marriott has given the old girl a facelift, transforming it into what is now the Threefoot Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio property.
But that’s not the only nod to an ancient Meridian family. Each spring, the Threefoot Festival takes hold of downtown, and around the corner from the hotel is the Threefoot Brewery in a renovated 1924 Merchant and Farmer’s Bank. The brewery is not affiliated with the hotel, though it contributes a specialty pilsner to the inn said Jerome Trahan, general manager.
The MSU Riley Center
Adjacent to the two Threefoot-inspired buildings is a historic room that regularly draws visitors. The Riley Center dates back to the late 19th century when two Rothenberg brothers built the “Grand Opera House” and the adjacent Marks Rothenberg department store to encourage tourists traveling by train between New Orleans and Chicago to stop at Meridian and to enjoy. The theater hosted vaudeville shows, touring shows, and early 20th-century silent films. It closed in 1927 but was later renovated and opened as a theater in 2006.
It is now operated by Mississippi State University with shows ranging from musical acts like The Temptations, Four Tops and Emmylou Harris to theatrical productions. For more information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit https://www.msurileycenter.com.
The MAX Museum
Each year, the Mississippi Arts+Entertainment Experience, known as The MAX, introduces several Mississippi natives who are giants in the fields of cultural arts, music, performing arts, visual arts and literature. Visitors will be amazed at how many well-known artists have emerged from the Magnolia State.
This year’s nominees at a ceremony to be held December 15 are Sam Cooke and WC Handy of Clarksdale, Marty Stuart of Philadelphia, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Alice Walker of Jackson and Ida B. Wells, Journalist and activist from Holly Springs.
Visit The MAX for the massive 360-degree wall highlighting the 2022 nominees as well as past recipients: Elvis, Tennessee Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Eudora Welty, James Earl Jones – the list goes on. The exhibit offers an immersive, multi-sensory experience that allows visitors to see, hear, and enjoy the music of the famous Mississippi River.
The rest of the museum is a delight, from its interactive exhibits on the state’s music, cuisine, literature, and environment to its rotating art collections.
Another immigrant to Meridian – this time Felix Weidmann from Switzerland – opened a restaurant at the Union Hotel with just one counter and four stools.
Today, Weidmann’s serves throngs of visitors who come for the Southern cuisine, the period photographs on the walls, and the signature peanut butter served in handcrafted ceramic vessels made by a local potter. The story goes that butter was in short supply during World War II, so Henry Weidmann, descendant of Felix, served up peanut butter to replace their regular crackers.