TAMPA, Fla. — A community-wide effort is underway to preserve a piece of Tampa history.

The Jackson Rooming House was built more than a century ago. It gave African-Americans a place to stay on their visit through Tampa.

Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and singer James Brown were just a couple of prominent black figures who once visited.

"I mean, this was a house where when no one else had anywhere to stay, that’s where they stayed,” said Jackson House Foundation President Carolyn Collins. “That’s where they jammed. That’s where 'A Tisket, a Tasket, I Lost my Yellow Basket’ was written."

But over time, the star-studded Jackson House turned into a cherished eyesore. The scope of the damage and historic significance was recently scanned into digital archives by the University of South Florida.

“I think it’s important to take the past and bring it into the present,” said USF Heritage and Digital Collections Co-Director Lori Collins.

The house, perhaps, meant the most to its former owner. Willie Robinson worked with USF on the scans.

Spectrum Bay News 9 spoke with him years ago as he fought tirelessly to save his childhood home.

“To see the house in the shape that it’s in now, it’s kind of depressing,” Robinson said back then.

Now, Mayor Jane Castor said it’s time to revive this history.

“We’ve waited way too long to focus on it, but it’s never too late,” Castor said. “We need to get started as quickly as we can. Get it restored and see what part it can play into downtown Tampa.”  

The strategy includes saving some bricks, artifacts and personalized walls. Much of the rest would be torn down. Then the Jackson House would be rebuilt.

“It’s going to be rebuilt in that same place,” Collins said. “It’s going to look the same, similar to what it was. And then we’re going to restore it to that level, to show this was something very significant in Tampa.”

The tear down and rebuild is estimated to cost $1.5 million. Next month, the Jackson House Foundation will begin a big push to raise the money. It’s a push Willie Robinson won’t get to see. He recently passed away.

“He said, ‘It’s in good hands, Dotsy’,” Collins reflected. “’It’s in your hands.’”

Whatever happens to the building, the digital footprint will remain. USF and the Tampa History Center are hoping to make the images part of a virtual collection.

For more information about the Jackson House or to donate, click here.