Another LaVilla building was recently razed, continuing the slow disappearance of historic buildings that once were a part of a vibrant early 20th century urban community. The latest to meet the wrecking ball is 618 West Adams Street, one of the last structures in LaVilla linked to an era when this portion of the neighborhood was a red light district and a Chinese and Jewish ethnic enclave.

Records obtained through city directories, Sanborn maps and the City of Jacksonville Historic Preservation Office suggest that 618 West Adams Street was completed in 1926 for Claude Eugene Sims and the Sims Tire Company. Born in 1885 in Georgia, Sims was a Jacksonville city councilman and the brother of Walter Sims, a former mayor of Atlanta and Georgia state senator. The Sims Tire Company specialized in automobile tire sales. The business was previously located at 334 West Forsyth Street before relocating to 618 West Adams Street. The business operated in this location until 1933 when Sims and a companion drowned during a fishing trip between Jacksonville and Green Cove Springs. Since the death of Sims, the other businesses that have occupied the building include Cain & Bultman. During LaVilla’s heyday as a Chitlin Circuit destination, the structure was home to R & R Liquor, a business that was once one of several package houses, taverns, pool halls, theaters and restaurants forming a vibrant district known as Uptown to Northeast Florida’s African-American community.

A 2020 rendering of Captain Sandy Yawn’s once proposed restoration of 618 West Adams Street.

Despite local community opposition, the structure was razed at the request of Captain Sandy Yawn, a mega-yacht captain and a star of “Below Deck Mediterranean” on the Bravo Network. Yawn acquired the property sight unseen in June 2020 for $185,000. Purchased through Miami Beach-based Yawn Properties, LLC, Yawn intended to retrofit the structure into a restaurant called Maritime 618 despite being several blocks from the riverfront. The revamped space would have included a restaurant, private club and rooftop lounge. Serving international seafood and cultural fare, it was originally anticipated that the restaurant would open in late 2021 or early 2022.

618 West Adams Street in LaVilla prior to demolition.

Since that announcement, Yawn determined that she and partner Chad Quist could not restore the building to fit their proposed concept. Anticipated to cost as much as $5 million, Yawn’s hopes for the creation of a replica building rely on the need to secure additional investors and funding to get the project off the ground. In the meantime, another vacant lot has been created in downtown for the foreseeable future.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at