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The Vinik Family Foundation has committed up to $1 million to help restore Tampa’s only African American boarding house during segregation.
“As Tampa continues to grow and change, it is critical that we invest in preserving the unique and valuable history of those who laid the foundation for our progress,” said Jeff Vinik in a news release. “Tampa’s diversity is our most valuable asset.”
The two-story Jackson Rooming House was built in 1903, a block from Union Station in an area that is one of the oldest black neighborhoods in Tampa, known as the “Scrub,” according to the house’s website.
Moses Jackson built his family home there, but realized that Africa American travelers had no place to stay while visiting Tampa, according to the Jackson House Foundation, so he turned their home into a boarding house for travelers.
The house hosted prominent entertainers like Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. even visited in 1961.
The Jackson House closed in 1989 and has since fallen into disrepair.
The Jackson House Foundation has been advocating for restoration of the house, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
In 2017, a Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero award helped pay for the foundation to work with local engineers to stabilize the house, but the condition of the structure has since worsened, according to a City of Tampa news release.
The foundation, led by past NAACP President Dr. Carolyn Hepburn Collins and in partnership with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, is seeking additional grant funding for the project.
“It’s impossible to put a dollar amount on the preservation of Tampa’s rich history,” Castor said in a news release. “Throughout the city we are extremely excited by new development that is activating our once blighted areas but we must celebrate and respect the pioneers that built our great city.”