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Reconstruction plans in the works for historic Jackson House

This downtown Tampa boarding house was a safe place for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era.

TAMPA, Fla. — There are many stories about Martin Luther King Jr.'s visit to Tampa in 1961, including that he either visited or even stayed at the Jackson Rooming House in downtown Tampa.

The Jackson House is a historic home that currently sits on Zack Street slowly deteriorating, but plans are in the works to reconstruct it.

To look at this home today, you would never know its amazing history.

The rooming house just a block from Tampa's Union Station was a haven for Black entertainers, athletes, teachers and clergymen who weren't welcome at white hotels. 

"It was a family who decided that they were going to provide a service to Tampa, downtown Tampa at that time still in the African American community that was around it," Carolyn Collins, head of the Jackson House Foundation, Inc., explained.

Around the house was a busy entertainment and business district welcoming to the Black community during the Jim Crow era. 

"They served food, they housed you, they did your laundry, they had taxi service," Collins explained. 

While the Central Avenue neighborhood no longer exists, the Jackson House does, and with several million dollars in donations, Collins says it will be brought back to what it once was. 

"We're going to reconstruct it. We have an excellent architect that's been working with us," she said. "He's put out several sets of plans. It's going to be two stories. 

"He was talking about one, we said no. It was two stories, we want two stories."

In 1905, the home was built as just a small cottage. But in 1915, the Jackson family expanded it into a two-story 24 bedroom, two bath boarding house. 

According to USF researchers, it still took in a limited number of guests until 1989. 

The Jackson House Foundation already has more than $2 million in donations. It recently applied for a state grant to secure enough funding to begin the reconstruction.

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