First round of demolition wrapped up at historic Sun-n-Sand site

The hotel opened in 1960 and was known as a lodging place for out-of-town legislators.
The hotel opened in 1960 and was known as a lodging place for out-of-town legislators.(WLBT)
Updated: Feb. 6, 2021 at 3:21 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The initial round of demolition has wrapped up at the Sun-n-Sand Motor Hotel, a historic downtown facility that used to be a home away from home for state powerbrokers.

The hotel, which was named one of the most endangered historic places in America, was torn down to make way for new employee parking.

Up next, “select demolition” will begin inside the remaining structure so it can be renovated and turned into an office and meeting space, said Paula Young, project director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

That work is expected to begin next week and will include removing curtains, carpeting, wallpaper, kitchen equipment, and other items left behind after the inn was shuttered years ago.

Crews also will determine what other interior work is needed so the Lamar Street facility can be renovated.

As is, the facility is not habitable, DeYoung explained.

“I’ve been in there several times and have had to hold my breath every time,” she said. “It has been in very bad shape.”

Outside, the property will be surveyed before surface parking is constructed.

“We took down the hotel (rooms) and filled in the pool. It’s a completely different site,” DeYoung said. “Now, we have to do a new topographical study.

“We were not able to do the study previously because the hotel was there.”

The Sun-n-Sand closed in 2001, more than 40 years after it was opened by the late Dumas Milner.

Milner also owned the King Edward Hotel, which he closed in 1967.

King Edward also fell into disrepair but was eventually restored and turned into a mixed-use development with a Hilton Garden Hotel Inn and apartments.

Meanwhile, the future of the Sun-n-Sand will be as surface-level parking for hundreds of state employees.

The state had been leasing the space from Lamar Properties for years and purchased the property in 2019 to make way for additional parking and to save money.

Taxpayers had been paying around $220,000 a year for the ability to park there, DFA officials said previously.

Numerous efforts to block demolition plans were made but to little avail.

In January 2020, after being presented with a petition signed by some 2,600 people to save it, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History voted to declare the hotel as a Mississippi Landmark.

At the time, the MDAH board also approved a resolution encouraging the state to determine if there were qualified real estate developers to redevelop the site.

However, that resolution also said the demolition could move forward on or after June 1, 2020, provided the historic sign remained in place and “as much salvageable material as possible (is) used in the construction of a new guard station building.”

With it clear that the state was moving forward with the demolition, in September, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the hotel as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2020.

Indeed, the sign, as well as other historic artifacts from the structure, are going to remain, DeYoung said.

“We plan on saving the period-piece light fixtures, the grillwork,” she said. “We are also saving the sign and restoring it to new.”

Even with the sign and former ballroom being saved, Lolly Rash, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, is saddened to see the building come down.

“We did everything we could to save it,” she said. “There was incredible support from the public to redevelop it, but their voices were not heard.”

Rash would have liked to see the building repurposed and put back on the tax rolls, something that would have benefited the nearby Farish Street community. She said developers were interested in redeveloping the site, much they did the King Edward.

Economic development aside, though, she said the building had so many stories to tell, from the exploits of legislators staying there to the hotel’s role in the fight for civil rights.

John Grisham was staying there during his time in the Mississippi House of Representatives, and during that time, worked on his first novel, according to a copy of Elevation, the trust’s journal.

“It was a place of safety for African Americans to meet,” she said. “It was also a place where African Americans could find jobs.

“The place that connected those stories to Mississippi was demolished.”

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