268 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI wholesale dry goods business in 1870. In the 1880s, he consolidated with Lichtenstein and Company, forming Marks-Lichtenstein at Sowashee Station on Front Street. Lichtenstein left in 1887. In 1889, Marks and his three half- brothers Sam, Levi, and Marks Rothenberg, reincorporated as Marks, Rothenberg & Company. The Marks company’s five story building and the Grand Opera House were built on Fifth Street and 22nd Avenue. They were designed by G. M. Torgenson, a Swedish immigrant who supervised the building of the New Orleans Cotton Centennial Exposition in 1884. Torgenson also designed other buildings in Meridian. General contractor Charles M. Rubush, who had been to Meridian while serving in the Indiana mounted infantry during the Civil War, returned in 1868 and went on to build many structures in the bustling city. Planning for the growth of the railroad town and seeing the future need for a larger downtown hotel, the Marks-Rothenberg building’s many windows allowed for future room partitions if ever converted from a department store to a hotel. Opening on December 17, 1890, the Grand Opera House seated approximately 1,100 people. The first performance held there was The Gypsy Baron by Johann Strauss, performed entirely in German. A strong advocate of African American education, Rabbi Judah Wechsler, Beth Israel’s spiritual leader in Meridian, led the movement to provide public school facilities for African Americans during racial segregation. In 1888, the year Mississippi enacted Jim Crow laws, Wechsler campaigned for a bond issue to construct the first brick public school building for African Americans. The East Central region entered a Golden Era and Meridian became the largest city in Mississippi. By 1927, Meridian had become one of the largest Jewish communities in the state with a population of 575 strong. Downtown Jewish businesses included Levy & Tannebaum Confectionary; Lowenstein & Brothers Grocery; Eagle Cotton Oil Company; Strauss & Lerner Jewelry Store; Metzger & Kahn wholesale and retail grocers; and many others. Louis Davidson founded the St. Louis Junk Company. Today, Marty Davidson continues his family legacy with Southern Pipe and Supply Company, one of Mississippi’s most successful family-run businesses. Meridian's Jewish community also went into business with non-Jewish community members, representing diverse thinking and planning for economic development in the East Central region. Harold Meyer and Hunter Webb founded the Meywebb Hosiery Mills in 1930. Meyer later built the Lamar Hotel, which now serves as the Lauderdale County office building. Even during strained economic conditions leading to the Great Depression, the Threefoot family contributed to their community helping to ensure the completion of the local YMCA in the late 1920s. Their landmark sixteen-story art- deco Threefoot Building was built in 1929. Marks contacted Andrew Carnegie about building a library in Meridian, which became the fifth southern community to receive Carnegie funding. In addition to a white library, Marks also requested funding for an African American branch. Both libraries opened in 1913 and I. Marks served as president of the first library board. The first Negro Library Advisory Board included Frank Berry and Henry Strayhorn, owners of Strayhorn & Berry Funeral Home which would soon become Strayhorn, Berry & Gardner when local blacksmith George Gardner bought in. Under the next generation it was to become Berry and Gardner Funeral Home, which still operates today. The contributions of Jewish businessmen Kutcher Threefoot and John Kamper helped make possible Highland Park, the premier streetcar pleasure park in the South and the only one in Mississippi. Meridian Light & Railway Company provided streetcar transportation to the park which had electricity, indoor plumbing, and concrete promenades illuminated by hundreds of electric lights. The City of Meridian purchased a Dentzel Carousel from Dentzel & Co. of Philadelphia and placed it at Highland Park inside the Dentzel house. It is still on display and is the only remaining original carousel built from a Gustav Dentzel blueprint. World War I On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany after a German submarine torpedoed the Lusitania, an unarmed British passenger ship that was transporting ammunition, causing the deaths of 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. The United States organized a draft of all men twenty-one through thirty years of age to register for military service. The war led to the cancellation that year of Mississippi’s centennial celebration (1817-1917). The Neshoba County Fair was officially incorporated on August 28, 1891. The fair quickly grew and by the time of America’s entry into the war, it had become a three-day In the nineteenth century, lumbering was a migratory industry.