TAMPA, Fla. — The Jackson House started as a family home and was turned into the Jackson Rooming House.
“It’s a house that has deep memories for community and individuals and also ties present and past, kind of, Tampa together,” said Dr. Lori Collins, Research Associate Professor at the University of South Florida and Director of the Center for Digital Heritage in the USF Libraries.
It was a prominent Black-owned business through the mid-1900s, offering a safe haven to Black entertainers, athletes, teachers and visitors to Tampa during a time when hotels were for "whites only."
“The Jackson House was servicing a community that was coming through the depot that had no other place to stay because of segregation rules and laws that came into play that Black travelers and African Americans coming through Tampa needed a place to stay,” said Collins.
It’s still standing today near Nebraska Avenue and East Zack Street in downtown Tampa. It’s now surrounded by vacant lots, in a state of despair, too dangerous for people to walk inside.
“It’s been vacated and abandoned really for a number of years now… It’s definitely imperiled, very fragile structurally,” said Collins.
That’s why long-term preservation has been a top priority.
“It’s either a documentation that will be implanted and useful for saving it or documentation for historical preservation,” said Collins.
Researchers at USF Libraries have been on a mission to digitally preserve The Jackson House, using 3D laser scanning technology and modeling.
“We have every sort of nook and cranny of it to about a millimeter of precision accuracy,” said Collins.
The Jackson House preservation is now part of a bigger project called, Tampa Through Time, where researchers are working to preserve the entire city, reviving communities that have been lost.
“We’re kind of resurrecting, digitally, all of these neighborhoods through a series of both mapping techniques to kind of bring Tampa back to life through different periods of time,” said Collins.
Project leaders hope Tampa’s past will be used to impact the city’s future.
“It’s really a memory not only of the past but I really hope that this has a lot of lessons and implementation of different types of science, different types of history, usefulness in classrooms and learning applications,” said Collins.
“We hope that the Jackson House will persist in digital memory and also that this will help with real preservation efforts and things going forward in the future,” she added.