One of the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s Most Endangered historic properties became even more so this month when the Mississippi Legislature voted to move toward acquisition of the property in Jackson, just west of the Capitol and Woolfolk State Office Building, to build more state offices on the site.
The building was listed on MHT’s 2005 10 Most Endangered List. Here’s what they had to say about the building then (you can read the whole listing and see some photographs at the MHT website):
Entrepreneur R.E. Dumas Milner launched the hotel in October 1960, naming it after a landmark Mississippi Gulf Coast hotel he owned as well. The hotel was important as a second home for state legislators, especially after the King Edward Hotel closed in 1965. It was moderately priced and within walking distance to the Capitol Building. The legislators could meet informally for meals, entertainment, and legislative negotiations. In 2001, House Ways and Means Chairman Billy McCoy said, “We have passed many important measures because of our conversations after hours in the Sun-n-Sand.”
In addition, its free form, space-age sign recalls the mid-twentieth century Las Vegas style atmosphere and hints at its reputation as the place to party in Jackson. When the legislature legalized liquor in 1965, the Sun-n-Sand was one of the first bars to open in Jackson.
The hotel closed in 2001 after becoming somewhat seedy, and it has been deteriorating ever since. I wonder if the owner has just been sitting on it in expectation that the state would eventually buy it.
Here’s a clip from the Clarion-Ledger article on Monday–see the full article, along with lots of interesting comments here:
A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Administration said this past week that no steps have been taken toward purchasing any of the buildings because there’s no money available now.
Tax records show that the Sun-N-Sand was built in 1959. When it closed 42 years later, the hotel’s decor could still be best described as mid-century tacky. The dining room had turquoise banquettes, and the guest rooms had turquoise or orange curtains.
Many unofficial legislative gatherings took place over the years in the hotel bar, called Ye Olde Sand Box, and in the Pacific-themed hospitality rooms — the Bali Hai, the Kon Tiki and the Polynesian. Sometimes, deals were cut. Sometimes, the hotel was just a place to have cocktails or coffee and exchange gossip.
I guess I will have to be thankful that we have “no money available now” but on the other hand, this bill sets up a scenario that most often leads to eventual purchase, assuming money becomes available at some point in the future. Interestingly, the story didn’t mention the 10 Most listing. I would love to see a private owner re-develop this site, keeping the mid-century-modern feel and legislative history of the place. This would also keep the property on the tax rolls, something that, as a Jackson resident, I would prefer to having yet another downtown property swallowed up into state-owned non-taxhood (yes, it’s totally a word). The Sun-n-Sand served the same function for legislators over 40 years as the King Edward served for 40 years, so I wonder why the King Edward became so iconic that it is now being renovated after 40 years of abandonment while the Sun-n-Sand is facing destruction at the hands of some of the very legislators who stayed there. Is it the size of the building or the architectural style that makes it seem less worthy?