- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - A building in Meridian that once served as a gathering point for those working to register blacks to vote and planning of civil rights activities in East Mississippi in the 1960s is coming down.

The Meridian Historic Preservation Commission and the property owners authorized the demolition of the building because of severe structural problems.

It is now called the Fielder and Brooks Building. In the ‘60s it was called the COFO Building, for the Council of Federated Organizations. COFO was a coalition of national and regional groups active during the civil rights era.

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney worked with COFO before they were killed in Neshoba County in 1964.

“The Mississippi Department of Archives and History came in and brought a structural engineer to do an assessment of the building, and it’s his findings that the building is just too far gone to be able to save,” said John McClure, who’s the city’s community development director.

Meridian Mayor Percy Bland says the city plans to memorialize the site in some way after the demolition.

“Its historic significance means a lot to the city of Meridian and the African-American community,” Bland said in a statement. “However, the building is private property and had already deteriorated tremendously well prior to any efforts of this administration.”

Bland said the property owners and the city worked to find ways to revitalize the building and make it structurally sound. He said recent studies showed the building cannot be saved and that demolition is the only practical recourse.

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