Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Latest effort to save Tampa's historic Jackson House fizzles

TAMPA — It provided shelter to music legends on tour including James Brown, Billie Holiday, Nat "King" Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. got home-cooked meals there when he was in town.

As important to Willie Robinson, it was where his mother was born and where she died 89 years later in 2006.

But none of that will spare the Jackson Rooming House from what now seems like certain demolition as the most recent effort to save it has fizzled. The latest would-be champions for restoring the house on Zack Street in downtown Tampa, as well as city officials, say the building is in too great a state of disrepair.

"I was admittedly a little biased," said Robinson, who owns the house that his family ran for decades. "I had hoped history would trump everything else. It does not. I don't want it to be a safety hazard for the citizens of this city. Whatever it's going to be, I want the Jackson House to be remembered in a positive light."

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden confirmed Tuesday what others had suspected. The more than 100-year-old, 24-room house was too damaged to restore without essentially rebuilding it from scratch.

Holes in the roof have allowed rain inside. The exterior of the wood-frame building is rotting in many places. Its foundation needs shoring and lead contaminates much of the wood. Pretty much every major system inside the house, from the plumbing to the electricity, is shot, Belden said.

"It's cost-prohibitive," Belden said of a restoration. "There's not a structural part of that building that can be saved right now. A strong wind would blow it over."

Belden, along with longtime friend and civic activist Marvin Knight, got involved in last-minute efforts to save the Jackson House after learning of Robinson's years-long effort to keep it from the wrecking ball. Robinson is facing daily fines from the city until the property is no longer deemed a safety hazard.

News stories have indicated that repairs on the 4,000-square-foot building could reach $1.5 million. The property has a market value estimated at $190,000, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office, most of that reflecting how much its land is worth. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Even from outside, it's clear why the house was an inviting spot to out-of-town visitors in the days before integration: a big front porch and views of the city.

"At the time of segregation, it was the place to be, the safest place to be as well as the nicest place to be," Robinson said.

But the challenges to restoring the building are obvious. Parts of the roof are slanted and there is a large hole in the rear of it. Many of the window frames are no longer true rectangles, revealing problems with the foundation.

The city had previously ordered the removal of one of the chimneys, which was in danger of falling. Since it's close to the street and parking lots, city officials fear the building is a danger to passers-by.

"We can't have something that's going to hurt people," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's administrator of economic opportunity.

Belden said he had people who offered to provide windows, landscaping and other assistance. But then he rattled off numbers that make previous estimates to repair the building appear on the mark or low.

He said Alphonso Architects has volunteered to create a scale model that could be displayed at the Tampa Bay History Center or a proposed African-American history museum at Encore, the redevelopment taking place on the site of the former Central Park Apartments public housing complex. That way, at least its legacy will be preserved, he said.

"It's a sad situation," Belden said. "But we gave it everything we had."

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

     
Comments
Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

Crisco, dune buggy and a face-plant: Fired-up Philly fans take to the streets

PHILADELPHIA — Not even a coat of Crisco on light poles across the city could keep Philadelphia Eagles fans from scaling new heights in celebrating their team’s first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years and setting up a rematch with the AFC champion N...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Deputies seek hit-and-run driver who seriously injured bicyclist in Plant City

Deputies seek hit-and-run driver who seriously injured bicyclist in Plant City

Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the driver who seriously injured a bicyclist in a hit-and-run crash in Dover on Monday morning.Deputies say the suspect was driving a Toyota Camry that is now missing part of its right front air dam afte...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

Lessons of another Belichick-Brady Super Bowl

TAMPA — Next victim, please.Shouldn't we just start penciling the Patriots into the Super Bowl before every season?It would save us a lot of time.Mind you, the rest of the NFL is fighting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and this foregone conclus...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater police investigate taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

Clearwater police investigate taxi jacking near Crest Lake Park

CLEARWATER — Investigators are searching for a suspect in a taxi carjacking Monday morning near Crest Lake Park.Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw said the taxi was taken about 7:40 a.m. and abandoned a few blocks away. No one was injured, Shaw sai...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman, 35, struck and killed while walking across SR 60 in Valrico

VALRICO — A 35-year-old Thonotosassa woman was struck and killed by a car while walking across State Road 60 west of Mount Carmel Road on Sunday night, the Florida Highway Patrol said.Brandi Eckelstafer was walking south across SR 60 just after 8 p....
Updated: 2 hours ago

Hooper: Deal with sea-level rise or prepare to be inundated

When fans again flock to Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard for the annual Gasparilla Festival on Saturday, I hope they ask a question: Will the floats need flotation devices in 2035?Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Astrid Caldas and Kate Cell, members of the Union ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

The Daystarter: PolitiFact Florida analyzes prison costs; breaking down the Super Bowl matchup; free dental clinic services in high demand; Arrrrr you ready for Gasparilla?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• We’ll have a mild and sunny start to the week, with highs in the upper 70s, according to 10Weather WTSP. A weak cold front brings a chance of rain on Tuesday and slightly coo...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Police: 2 IEDs detonated at a Florida mall, no injuries

LAKE WALES — Police say two improvised explosive devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.Lake Wales police Deputy Chief Troy Schulze tells news outlets that at 5:22 p.m., the Lake Wales Fire ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
St. Pete spilled 266,000 gallons of waste into Smacks Bayou

St. Pete spilled 266,000 gallons of waste into Smacks Bayou

ST. PETERSBURG — It may be a new year but the city finds itself still dealing with an old problem: spilled sewage.The city announced Thursday that two spills at its Northeast sewage plant at 1160 62nd Ave. NE had been contained.But the release — with...
Updated: 9 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

PolitiFact Florida: Claims about prison price-gouging decry $17 soup, $18 tampons

Advocates of Florida prisoners protested outside of the Florida Department of Corrections in Tallahassee on Tuesday, demanding answers to questions of alleged price-gouging in prisons across the state.Protesters from dozens of grass roots organizatio...
Published: 01/22/18