TAMPA, Fla. -- Today, its doors are closed, but during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the Jackson Rooming House on E. Zack St. in downtown Tampa was a haven for all -- specifically African Americans.

“This is a place where they would come to feel safe because they could not stay in the local hotels. They could not eat in the local restaurants,” said Penda King, secretary for the Jackson House Foundation.

For much of the 20th century, the house welcomed people from all walks of life, including black superstars whose widespread fame did not make them exempt from the social mores of the day.

“We had the likes of Nat King Cole, we had Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, just to name a few people that stayed in this house," King said. "We had the military also come and stay in this house when they could not stay other places."

Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a brief stop at the home, which was located not far from Central Avenue, a thriving business and entertainment district in the African American community that was razed during urban development of the 1960s and 70s.

After the rooming house closed in the late 1980s, the condition began to deteriorate to the point of dilapidation. Today, there are visible holes in the roof, broken windows and siding missing from the building.

In 2017, the Jackson House Foundation worked with an engineering firm to stabilize the foundation but estimates it will need close to a million dollars to restore the building to its former glory. The goal is to make the Jackson House a museum and a place to hold youth education programs.

“We should remind people how it used to be, and this is what restoring this house would do,” King said.

To donate, visit: http://www.connecxm.com/jacksonhouse/index.html

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com

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