The block containing the Marks, Rothenberg & Co store and their Grand Opera House was constructed 1888-1890, designed by architect Gustavus Maurice Torgerson, an immigrant from either Switzerland or Sweden (depending on which census record is used) (Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Nomination form for National Register of Historic Places).
Marks and Rothenberg, two half-brothers of a Jewish immigrant family, constructed the huge Marks-Rothenberg department store on the corner. It was successful, so they built the Grand Opera House next door to their business, and for a brief period, it also enjoyed success, bringing entertainment and excitement to Meridian.
Benefitting from its location on the Atlanta-New Orleans circuit, the Grand Opera House attracted vaudeville and minstrel shows as well as opera and drama, and in its relatively brief existence it became known as one of the best facilities of its type in the South. (Maddox, D. 1972. Grand Opera House. National Register of Historic Places nomination form)
The opera house operated until c. 1919 as a live entertainment venue, and then was used as a movie theater until it was closed in 1927 (MDAH), in the midst of a lawsuit involving Rothenberg and Saenger Theatres. In a seemingly unbelievable turn of events, the grand facility sat empty other than for use as a warehouse and storage until 2006. The block of buildings was restored and is now the Mississippi State University Riley Center for its downtown Riley Campus.