SARASOTA, Fla. — The City of Sarasota joined by elected officials and community leaders gathered for a sendoff celebration for the Historic Leonard Reid House Thursday.

The house is moving to a new location on Orange Avenue at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Newtown early Friday morning. It was donated to the city by the owners and will become the first home of the Sarasota African American Cultural Center (SAACC) and History Museum.

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The gathering included a symbolic ritual for prosperity and protection and a reflection on preserving the history and heritage of the city's black community. Reid was one of the early pioneers who helped establish Overtown, Sarasota's African American community, in an area now known as the Rosemary District.

At a press conference, earlier in the day, a descendant of Reid's spoke about the significance of the home's relocation.

"It's amazing that it's still standing and that we can do something positive with it," Mary Simmons-Mack of Newtown said.

Simmons-Mack who is a grand-niece recalled coming to her great uncle's house with her grandmother when she was 6 years old.

"It's part of my family history," she said. "It means an awful lot and it is something that we can move forward for the children of our communities and this cultural center will help them know their true history."

According to historians with Newtown Alive, a family account revealed that Reid was born in South Carolina and grew up in Georgia. He was involved in the fish trading business and was on his way to Cuba in 1900 when he missed the boat from Sarasota. 

Reid then got a job, made some connections, and eventually became a close confidant to John Hamilton Gillespie, Sarasota's first mayor. 

Through his friendship and counsel from Gillespie, he bought land, was able to build his own house, and helped set up a church, school, and businesses. 

"That's what this house represents, character, to instill character and pride back into our community, a community that is on the fringe right now," Vice Mayor Kyle Battie said. 

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"For the longest time what was known as the Village of Overtown and Newtown, there was no written history. There was no way to tell the stories, the stories that are very, very important to us today," Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo said.

"It will be a place where the community will be able to gather, visitors will be able to come. It will be an economic driver for our community," Dr. Washington Hill, Board Chair of the SAACC, said.

Moving the house is just one of several phases toward the museum project which has taken teamwork from several community members and city officials.

"What seemed impossible is finally happening," CEO of SAACC Vickie Oldham said.

"We, with the City of Sarasota's assistance, kept moving forward to overcome obstacles, and we refused to let this dream fall apart. Our gratitude and appreciation to the City Commission for jumpstarting the history project and supporting the effort at every step," Oldham said in a statement.

"We need to know exactly what the truth is about especially now when you're trying to hide everything and not tell the truth about our real history," Simmons-Mack said.

The 2.6-mile journey from 7th Street to Orange Avenue will happen in the overnight hours when the streets are clear. City crews had to take down one traffic signal along MLK Way because it hung too low for the house to pass underneath. It will take crews nearly two hours to get the house to its new address.

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