Pensacola city councilwoman Sherri Myers said Tuesday that she is asking for an emergency city council meeting to discuss the pending demolition of the historic 1901 John Sunday House.
Myers said she has spoken with Council Executive Don Kraher to formally request an emergency meeting on the issue. Under the city charter, three council members must request a special meeting in order for it to take place. Myers said she would like to see the council explore the possibility of purchasing the house and turning it into a park and or museum, perhaps in collaboration with the UWF Historic Trust.
As we reported this morning, the historic Sunday House is facing imminent demolition after Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office announced Monday that the city would grant a demolition permit despite the Architectural Review Board’s decision to table the issue until June. Built by one of Pensacola’s most significant African-American historical figures, the home is one of the last remaining historic structures in a largely-redeveloped section of the Tanyard neighborhood in downtown Pensacola.
Born a slave, Sunday fought in the Civil War, served as a city alderman and state legislator during Reconstruction, and built a successful construction business, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest African-Americans in the South — all at a time when many viewed blacks as second-class citizens. When Jim Crow forced black businesses out of downtown Pensacola, Sunday helped establish the Belmont-Devilliers area as a center for black commerce. A significant property owner, Sunday owned the land on which Pensacola landmarks like the Louisville & Nashville train depot and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church would later be built.
Meanwhile, former city planner and congressional candidate Elizabeth Schrey has filed an appeal, which would appear to stay the demolition at least temporarily. “According to code, if an appeal is filed then that puts a hold on all process,” said City spokesperson Vernon Stewart. “If an appeal is filed before the permit is given, then the permit cannot be issued and the appeal is sent to legal to determine if it is relevant and/or has standing. If it does have standing, then it will go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment.”
In her appeal, Schrey wrote that Mayor Hayward’s decision to issue a demolition permit “effectively negated the codified powers of the Architectural Review Board.”
Stewart said Schrey had not yet paid the $500 fee for the appeal, which is due by May 25. Nonetheless, Stewart said that Schrey’s appeal would stay the appeal until next month’s Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on June 15, unless Schrey doesn’t pay the fee by May 25 or the city’s legal staff determines Schrey doesn’t have standing in the matter. Clarification on who would have standing was not immediately available.