Saving a piece of Tampa's history: Owner of Jackson House being asked to make some repairs

30 day deadline to make repairs to historic bldg.

TAMPA, Fla. -

A piece of Tampa's history could soon be in danger of disappearing if repairs are not made soon. 


The Jackson House sits at 851 East Zach Street downtown Tampa.


It was once an important part of downtown because it was a place where blacks were allowed to lodge back in the segregation era.


"They ran a five-star, what we call a five-star establishment in that particular time," Willie Robinson Jr. said. He is now the owner of the house which has been passed down from generation to generation since it was built in 1901.


The house was a popular place in the early 1900's. It sat a few feet from Tampa's main train station that brought people into and out of the city. It also sat a few feet from Central Avenue, a once thriving area for black businesses and entertainment.


"They used to say this was the gateway into Central Avenue," Willie said. When the performers performed on Central Avenue they would stay here."


Big name celebrities like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and many more all roomed here.


Martin Luther King Jr. even enjoyed a lunch with Willie's mother at the house.


"This was a popular black area part of town and this was a popular house," Willie said.


But with the old age of the house, it now needs repairs before it possibly collapses upon itself.


On August 21, city code enforcement officials gave Willie 30 days to make repairs to the leaking roof and brace and stabilize the house.


They did this out of concern the house could collapse and injure people around the house.


The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cannot be torn down.


But that listing does not save it from collapse. "We have cooperations like roofing companies and structure people who want to come in but they're waiting for the 501-C simply so they can get the tax write-off," Willie said.


The IRS is currently reviewing Willie's request for 501-C status but it can be a few months before the final decision is made.


During that time, he will still need to make the repairs code enforcement is asking of him and then he will be taken off the time frame.


After that, Willie can then focus on making more repairs to the house and bringing back to life again. The cost of that could exceed $1.5 million.


But that's a small price to pay for such a big part of Tampa's history.


"Even though I'm the first to be educated in my family, I'm the first one to say that I don't know everything about everything and when I ask for help, that's because I need help," Willie said.

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