Hampton House one step closer to reclaiming former glory
1960s postcard of Hampton House Motel and Villas. Photo credit: Gurri Matute Architect)
By Staff Writer
Recently, the six million dollar rehabilitation of historic Hampton House began. Hampton House history stems from the Civil Rights era. In the days of segregation, when African Americans couldn’t stay in or eat at any of Miami Beach’s famed hotels, the Hampton House Motel in nearby Brownsville at the corner of Northwest 27 Avenue and 42 Street, provided a haven of culture for African Americans. It also boasted live entertainment with a jazz club and traveling celebrities would often perform there. Sam Cooke often sang in the lounge when he traveled to South Florida.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Berry Gordy were often guests at the hotel. After Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston in 1964, it was at the Hampton House with Malcolm X that he went to celebrate. Dr. King was such a frequent visitor that one room was known as his suite. He’s also said to have delivered his I Have a Dream speech there, before presenting it in Washington.
“This was an oasis in a sea of racism,” stated Khalilah Camacho Ali, from the Hampton House’s new event space, which was created out of the old jazz club and some of the motel rooms above.
The majority county-funded project has been in the works for almost 15 years. Hampton House closed its doors in 1972 and was facing demolition in 2000. That’s when local organizers stepped up. The process that led to the ribbon cutting ceremony included soliciting the Dade Heritage Trust to sponsor the historic designation of the motel, to getting a stay of demolition from the mayor to the County’s purchase of the Hampton House and declaring it an historic landmark. The project is being relaunched as a local cultural center, with a museum, office space, and restaurant, as well as a recording studios.
At the ribbon cutting event, Commissioner Edmonson, whose district includes the motel, stated, “I remember the Hampton House. I am so proud to say I grew up in this community.”
Enid Pinkney, founding president of the Historic Hampton House Community Trust, welcomed visitors to the reopening. She feels the project will revitalize the community and link prosperity with Hampton House. In a HHHCT video, Pinkney shared the vision of the Trust. “We’ll have a place in Miami where we can go and be proud of the effort that went into bringing that back as an economic engine in the community.”