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Tampa rooming house used by Black stars during segregation getting a much-needed revitalization

Dr. Martin Luther King stayed at the Jackson House
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Posted at 3:23 AM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 08:52:41-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Ella Fitzgerald stayed there. So did Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown.

The Jackson House, situated across from Amtrak train station in downtown Tampa, is a history-rich building built in 1901.

The rooming house's walls hold nothing less than the story of the Tampa Bay area, especially during segregation when Blacks, famous or otherwise, were forced to seek separate lodging there.

More famous names that slept at the beloved safe haven? Dr. Martin Luther King and Count Basie.

Over the years the multi-story house at 851 E. Zack Street fell into disrepair.

Renovation delays frustrated the Jackson House Foundation which wanted to save history.

Things are finally moving forward. Construction crews moved in.

"I'm at a point now where the chills do not go away," says Dr. Carolyn Collins, chair of the foundation's board of directors. "What we're doing is constantly moving forward, and we have momentum."

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik donated $1 million to the cause last year. USF and the Tampa Bay History Center since offered help, too.

Although there is no set timeline for completion, Collins says future plans will involve some sort of museum celebrating the many walks of life who stayed in the Jackson House.

By also focusing on the blatant wrongs of Jim Crow laws, Dr. Collins believes a beautifully renovated Jackson House in the heart of downtown Tampa could help to "eradicate the ills of the past."

For more on the Jackson House, click here.