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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Shore up historic Jackson House

The debate over what is historically significant can take some odd turns. Witness the bizarre effort to depict the 35-year-old “Bro Bowl” skateboard park near Central Park as historic.

But there should be little dispute over the importance of preserving the Jackson House, an 112-year-old East Tampa rooming house that served as a sanctuary for black visitors during the segregation era.

Visitors included Dr. Martin Luther King, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.

Sadly, the structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Florida’s Black Historic Trail is in disrepair.

The Tribune’s Kathy Steele reports code inspectors fear it will collapse without some work. The owner faces city code enforcement fines, but says he doesn’t have the money to maintain the dwelling.

This could easily result in a notable part of Tampa’s history being razed.

Fortunately, Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden and local businessman Marvin Knight have stepped up to lead a fundraising campaign for its renovation, which could cost $1 million or more.

They hope builders, electricians and others will volunteer their services.

Belden says he’s already heard from a civil engineer, and owners of landscaping, window repair and air-conditioning businesses.

A meeting is scheduled with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s staff next week to discuss Jackson House, which is located at 851 Zack Street. We hope the mayor does whatever is possible to assist the preservation effort.

As Belden points out, it takes time to raise funds. As long as the project is making progress, the city should be flexible about code enforcement deadlines.

The Jackson House serves as an important reminder of the injustices of segregation and the enterprise and courage of those who endured it.

Belden’s and Knight’s preservation efforts deserve the community’s support.

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