Eventually the ravages of time spare nothing, not even one of Tampa's crown jewels of the city's past. Despite the best efforts by city leaders to preserve it, Tampa's historic 114-year-old Jackson House, which lodged black visitors to the city during the era of segregation, appears destined for demolition. While the Jackson House may soon be razed, its place in Tampa's civil rights history should not be forgotten.
From 1899 until the 1960s, the 24-room Jackson House on Zack Street hosted such luminaries as Nat "King" Cole, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jazz great Ella Fitzgerald created her novelty hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket while staying at the Jackson House. But as urban renewal claimed nearby property along Central Avenue in the 1960s, the boarding house began to fade. Despite its National Register of Historic Places designation, Jackson House has deteriorated beyond repair. A brief, well-intentioned effort by Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden to save the building collided with economic reality.
As the date with the wrecking ball draws near, it is appropriate to recall a lyric from another famous Fitzgerald song: "When the steeple bell says, 'Goodnight, sleep well,' we'll thank the small hotel. We'll creep into our little shell. And we will thank the small hotel together."