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Community, city leaders raising funds to save iconic 'Jackson House' in downtown Tampa

House hosted African American artists during segregation
Posted at 5:01 PM, May 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 17:25:37-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- A historic home in downtown Tampa is getting the community's support.

The Jackson Boarding House hosted African-American artists during segregation but now it's falling down.

Now supporters raising money to save it are getting new support from Tampa leaders.

"I think one of the first things that the walls would say, is the famous people who came through here,” said Carolyn Collins.

Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown all spent time under this roof and inside the walls of the Jackson House.

PHOTOS: Current state of the historic Jackson House

"And then when they called the names off, they would talk about the songs like 'A Tisket a Tasket. I lost my yellow basket,' that was written inside that house,” said Collins who’s Board Chair of The Jackson House Foundation.

Famous, talented but still separate during racial segregation.

The Jackson House welcomed and anchored a thriving downtown center for African-American artists.

But over the weekend, the family who ran it for decades lost their biggest supporter.

Former owner Willie Robinson died.

"Willie loved the Jackson House and I think that the love that I can share for him is to make sure that what we said we are going to do, that it's done,” said Collins.

Now the foundation, a non-profit fundraising for years, is renewing its effort to make him proud and turn it into an African-American history museum.

"African Americans would arrive at the train and they couldn't stay in white hotels so they would walk across the street and ask to stay here,” said Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, pointing to Tampa Union Station just a few blocks away.

Back in 2014, the house was barely spared from demolition and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn criticized for not doing more to save it.

What may make a difference now is the ourpour of the city's support, including Carlson.

"We need a plan and then we need to encourage the community to raise money and I feel very confident that we can do that,” he said.

So is the Jackson House Foundation's board director who tells me these walls deserve preservation for Tampa's future generations.

"How did we get here? And what can we do as the Nat King Cole's of the world, the Pearl Bailey's of the world, or Dr. Martin Luther Kings to make sure that Tampa and all cities in every state in our country can do a better job to make sure that we never have to go back and have this kind of environment again,” said Collins.