HUDSON — Back before the interstates and the chain Ramadas and Holiday Inns, families crammed in station wagons bearing south toward Clearwater Beach found their respite here, below the neon, at the Coral Sands Motel.
Planted among the trees off U.S. 19, the two-lane road that cut near the Old Dixie Highway, the motel was among the first of its kind in north Pasco to cater to the road trip.
To lure in drivers, who otherwise could claim a tin-can camper or pitch a tent, the Coral Sands flashed its amenities: kitchenettes, a heated pool, window air conditioners and in-room television sets. Guests checking out could mail their friends postcards of the motel in its aqua-trimmed splendor.
"It used to be beautiful," said Raj Jaikaran, the owner. "I think I have a postcard here, somewhere."
But something happened between 1954 and now — the interstates and modern chain motels, for instance — to drub the Coral Sands. Roadside stops like the Star Motel, the Oaks Motor Court and Restaurant, and Casey's Corner, where a traveler could pay $1.50 a night for a cottage and a plate of the owner's wife's chicken dinner, faded into scrapbook Americana, the things of memories.
The Coral Sands' heated pool has been long paved over. The aqua trim has withered from years of oppressive heat. Squatters, hookers and drug dealers began huddling between the flat gravel roof and wood-paneled walls. Two men were murdered just before midnight, including one man, a mistaken robber, shot 11 times by the motel manager.
Jaikaran, a Trinidad native, moved from New York to Hudson to open an auto and electric repair shop near the motel in the late 1980s. He bought the motel in 2001 and renamed it the Westside Efficiency Motel. Before its business dried up, groups of men would convoy in from Mexico or the Carolinas, rent a room for $196 a week and find work building houses or picking blueberries at nearby farms.
"Why no business? You tell me, man," Jaikaran said last week. "It's the economy, man. Everybody's broke around here."
Last week, the demolition crew rolled in. Jaikaran had had enough. In the last weeks there were three filled rooms: a brother and sister in their 70s, who panhandled at Hudson's New York Avenue and were drunk by 7 a.m.; a man who kept mostly to himself, bicycling along U.S. 19 to his dishwashing shifts at a local restaurant; and a mysterious man who, when told of the demolition, vanished into the night.
The smell in some rooms was awful, workers said, and the building was falling apart. With one touch of a front-end loader, the '50s-era cinder blocks crumbled into pieces. Pasco deputies who had spent many early mornings driving by the old motel watched as the rooms caved in.
"They said they want to give us the key to the city for tearing this thing down," Patrick McMunn said.
By the end of the week, the building was mostly rubble — shredded wood, fiberglass, cigarette butts and plastic four-pack holders. Jaikaran plans to lease the lot to a low-credit used car dealership called Micco Motors — slogan: "I'll loan you more money than your mother!" — so they can store more cars.
By next week, crews said, the motel will be loaded onto trucks, piece by piece, and driven south on U.S. 19.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at (727) 869-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.