Tampa, FL -- It may be on the National Registry of Historic Places, but the Jackson Rooming House on Zack Street in downtown Tampa has clearly seen its day.
Its porches are collapsing. Its walls and windows are cracked and worn by time and neglect.
Still, Rodney Kite-Powell with Tampa's Historic Museum, believes the structure represents an important era in Tampa, and represents one of the few African-American structures still standing hearkening back to the age of segregation.
It was "a time when African Americans had to find accommodations on their own among other African Americans. They weren't allowed in white accommodations," said Kite-Powell.
Now, the rooming house, nearing a date with the wrecking ball, may have a new lease on life from none other than well-known shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Bubba's foundation has contracted to purchase the rooming house at fair market value.
They plan to stabilize it, and then use the foundation's non-profit status to let preservation groups to raise the estimated $1.5 million needed to fully restore it.
If the deal closes, they plan to hold a news conference in just over a week to unveil details.
"It's why we're standing here. It's why it is a story and it's why I think it needs to be saved," Kite-Powell said of the building.
The Jackson Rooming House was a well-known stop during the years of segregation for African Americans passing through or performing in Tampa.
Names like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nat "King" Cole. James Brown and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are rumored to have visited here too. Unfortunately, says Kite-Powell, there's little historical proof, but that's not to say they were never here.
"All those different people and lots, lots more very well could have stayed here, but it's the nature of the business. I think that you didn't keep those sorts of detailed records and so from a historical standpoint it's really hard to substantiate that," he said.
Still at question is whether this is a temporary reprieve for the Jackson Rooming House, or whether it will buy those who want to restore it enough time to do so.
Structural engineers have looked at the building and say something needs to be done soon, or Mother Nature will do to the building what the city has threatened to.
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