History of Tampa’s Jackson House

The history and future of the historic Jackson House

Jackson House TBAY

A historic gem for Tampanians

Photo by @black_blake

Flashback to the early 1900s… Tampa became a thriving metropolis and commercial hub, growing from less than 800 residents to over 15,000. It was a time of booming tourism with the late 19th century growth of railroads, hotels, the cigar industry, and streetcars.

But only three and half decades after the end of the Civil War in 1865, there was still not a safe haven for Black travelers who came to visit Tampa. Enter: The Jackson House, Tampa’s only boarding house for African Americans during times of segregation.

🏡 The story behind the name

In 1901, a man named Moses Jackson and his wife Sarah acquired the property from its first known owner, Sarah Allen. Realizing that Blacks had no place to stay while coming into town, they decided to build their two-story homewhich was originally a six-room cottage — into a twenty-four room boarding house, employing the women of their family to run it.

Together, the couple operated the business from 1910 to 1929, and passed it down to their daughters and their families and continued to house guests through 1989.

🚂 A prominent location

Located in downtown Tampa at 851 E. Zack St., The Jackson House resides in one of Tampa’s oldest black neighborhoods known as “The Scrub.” The establishment is blocks from Union Station, which made it a cultural hotspot for visitors coming in and out via train.

Throughout history, several famous black musicians and civil rights leaders have stayed at The Jackson House, including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat “King” Cole, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who came to visit in 1961.

📜 Today’s significance

The City of Tampa designated The Jackson House as a distinguished landmark for its contributions and significance to the city. While the building is slowly deteriorating, the foundation has plans to restore Tampa’s last-standing African American historical landmark.

They are currently seeking volunteers to help raise awareness. Supporters can also purchase a shirt to help inspire future generations to vote. And while the foundation has already raised over $2 million in donations and applied for a state grant back in January 2022, you can continue to donate on their website. Currently, efforts to rebuild have been stalled.

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