Martinsville commemorates historic Paradise Inn before upcoming demolition

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 4:58 PM EDT
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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Martinsville community gathered Wednesday morning for a demolition ceremony to commemorate Paradise Inn.

Paradise Inn was built by Fred and Elizabeth Dillard in 1946 and shut down in the ‘90s.

Over years of decay, the building became too damaged to be restored. However, the inn hosted numerous national music acts and even classrooms at one point, leaving a mark on local African American arts and culture.

“It was a staple center for the Black community,” said Deshanta Hairston, Executive Director of the FAHI Museum. “It’s so important to preserve that history because when you talk to members of the Black community, especially older members in this area, that’s the first thing they talk about is Paradise and the memories that they have there.”

The memory that stands out the most is the food.

“They had the best hotdogs,” said Artis Law, FAHI Museum Board Member. “I don’t know what hotdogs they were, but they had the best hotdogs. They had the best French fries. Everything was cooked fresh.”

“This place was famous,” said Donald Ingram, Martinsville resident. “Burger King and Hardee’s and all those guys, they think they brought a hamburger to Martinsville and they didn’t. Paradise brought the cheeseburger.”

They say Paradise Inn hardly ever saw crime, truly living up to its name.

“My memories of Paradise growing up were positive. It was a place that violence didn’t come in this area. It existed, but it was something about this area everybody respected,” added Ingram.

“It was a safe place for the Black community to get together and enjoy each other. It wasn’t just the place of nightlife, but it was also a place for community. So, I would love to see it become a historical marker in the space just to recognize what Paradise was to the community,” said Hairston.

Demolition will officially begin Friday, August 11. Many hope to see the property turned into a place for the community such as a garden or a new FAHI Museum, but the city wants to hear from the public first.

The FAHI Museum is also asking the community for any pictures they may have of Paradise Inn when it was still open so they can preserve the history for future generations.