TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Chances are, if you’ve driven through Downtown Tampa you’ve seen it and wondered what it was. It’s an old building in very bad shape, with a worn tarp covering only a few of the holes in the roof. It’s called the Jackson House and today there’s a major step forward in its restoration.
Willie Robinson knows it well. “From my growing up, my mother said, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, stayed here,” Robinson said. Robinson’s grandparents built the home in the early 1900s. It started as a family home, but soon became a boarding house.
It was for years, the only place African-American entertainers could stay when in town. For years, it’s been in serious disrepair. And for years, there’s been a financial struggle to fix it. Now things are looking up. Dr. Carolyn Collins with the NAACP launched a campaign to restore it. Phase one, making sure it doesn’t fall down, is set to begin next week.
“That phase we have funding for, we are very fortunate,” Collins said. Jeff Vinik donated $50,000 to the Jackson family. That money will go towards the $64,000 stabalization bill.
“Phase one is we want to get the house strong. We want to put the steel beams from the bottom underneath the house, all the way up to the roof. And then redo the rooftop so it would be prepared for any type of inclement weather at all. That phase is an important phase because we can’t move forward,” Collins said.
Robinson said, it’s a move he’s been waiting and praying for. “I’m very elated not only for me, but for the entire community of Tampa Florida… It’s been a journey.”