Monday, February 5, 2007
7 News Features: Black History month: The Hampton House
As you know, February is Black History Month. Each week this month, we're going to take a look at locations that played a fundamental role in shaping, defining and redefining the African-American experience in South Florida. This morning, we profile a real gem in our own backyard. 7's Sharron Melton reports.
WSVN -- It was called the "Jewel of the South" ... The Hampton House Motel in Brownsville.
It was also referred to as the "Social Center of the South" for African-Americans from around the world, in the 1950s and 60s.
But 30 years of neglect has left this jewel tarnished. Now, that's about to change.
Enid Pinkney, Historic Hampton House Community Trust, Inc.: "We are in the process now of working on the project to bring it into a reality that it can be restored."
Built in 1953, the Hampton House Motel is located in the 4200 block of Northwest 27th Avenue in Overtown.
Famous figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it home so often he was always placed in this same room, on the second floor.
Enid Pinkney: "He gave his first version of the 'I Have a Dream' speech at the Hampton house."
And, in the room right below Dr. King, another famous face was often in residence. It's Cassius Clay himself ... seen in the middle of this picture and known to most people today as Muhammad Ali.
World famous entertainers like Billy Holiday, Nate King Cole, the Ink Spots, Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald also came to the Hampton House.
Even Wimbeldon and World Champion tennis player Althea Gibson and singer Jackie Wilson spent many a day at the Hampton House pool, enjoying the sights.
Enid Pinkney: "Especially the black elite could see that they could come to Miami and they would be in another world because they wouldn't have to worry about segregation because just about everything they would like to have is right there at the Hampton House."
Ironically, the hotel came at a time when segregation divided Miami and blacks in Overtown had to fend for themselves.
Enid Pinkney: "And so you had tailors, you had your grocery store, you had just about everything, all the businesses, the restaurants, so it not only drew black people, white people came there also."
Sharron Melton: "It looks a whole lot different from what it used to when the Hampton House was a safe haven from the world of segregation. But it was also a place of integration where people from South Florida, the country, even the world, could gather to listen to music."
Now its gates are locked, the windows and doors are boarded up and it's covered in debris.
But, the historic Hampton House Community Trust is now raising money to fix it up, to turn it into a music/recreational center and small museum for all generations while bringing the historic Hampton House back to it's former glory.
Enid Pinkney: "This is a part of respecting who we are and what has happened in the past and pass it on to future generations."