1. Nina Simone Birthplace and Childhood Home
This home was the birthplace/childhood home of jazz legend and Civil Rights Icon Nina Simone. Simone was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and respected civil rights activist. After being rejected from talent auditions and even school admissions due to the color of her skin, Simone went on to become one of the most respected classical pianists and jazz vocalists in music history. After achieving fame as a musical artist, in the 1960s Simone became active in the civil rights struggle and the course of her life shifted, with her music becoming a driving force in the fight for racial equality. She is a member of the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, the Jazz Hall of Fame, and is a fifiteen-time nominee for the GRAMMY Awards.
The home was set to be demolished by the city of Tryon, NC, until a grassroots campaign bought the home with the intent to restore it as a museum and educational resource. Currently, the Simone House is about to undergo a major historical rehabilitation.
Nina Simone Birthplace/Childhood Home
Tryon, North Carolina
Contact: Nina Simone Birthplace, Inc.
2. Old Leon County Jail (Firestone Building)
Now owned by the City of Tallahassee's Community Redevelopment Agency, this building served as the Leon County Jail building from the date of its construction in 1936/37 until 1966. The historic jail yields national significance to the American civil rights movement. Tallahassee’s jail was the first in the entire country to play host to a jail-in of the civil rights student sit-in movement. Two months after the jail’s completion, in July 1937, two black prisoners were removed from the new jail by four white men, taken east of town and fatally shot in one of Leon County’s most prominent lynchings.
Many of Tallahassee’s most famous civil rights activists spent time in the old county jail. African-Americans in Tallahassee boycotted the bus system after the arrest and incarceration of Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson; two Florida A&M University (FAMU) students for sitting beside a white woman on a segregated city bus (May 26, 1956). During the boycott, Tallahassee’s citizens carpooled to get to and from work or used other means of transportation. Twenty-one members of the Inter-Civic Council, including Revs. C.K. Steele, K.S. DuPont, A.C. Redd, Dan Speed, Fr. David Brooks, and H. McNeal Harris, were arrested, jailed and convicted on charges of operating an illegal transportation system for arranging the car pool without a franchise. Reverend Charles Kenzie Steele, Sr., pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, led the boycott of the city-run bus system.
In March 1960, 35 mostly FAMU students were arrested when they attempted to integrate lunch counters at Tallahassee department stores. Led by Priscilla Stephens Kruize, and the late Patricia Stephens Due, eleven of those students were eventually convicted of disturbing the peace and ordered to pay $300 or spend 60 days in jail. Eight of the students chose "jail over bail." Their "jail-in" attracted national attention, and five of the students toured the nation speaking on behalf of civil rights. This marked the first jail-in the United States in the student sit-in movement.
Old Leon County Jail (Firestone Building)
409 East Gaines Street
Contact: City of Tallahassee
Office of the Mayor and City Commission
300 South Adams Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
3. Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence
This building, built in 1847, was in the mid-1850s, the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers. The Myers' led activists on the famous Underground Railroad. As African-Americans, they were among an important element in the Underground Railroad story. They helped thousands of fugitives from enslavement in the 30-plus years of their activity. This site was also a meeting place for the Vigilance Committee of the UGRR. The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the National Network of Freedom of the National Park Service.
The home has been identified as the Myers’ residence and as an UGRR site in several key abolitionist sources. More than 50 people who were referred to the Myers’ are identified in abolitionist documents.
The building is in fair condition, though it has suffered from years of neglect. The Underground History Project, which owns the building, has raised more than $750,000 for its restoration and much has been done toward reclamation. It is estimated that more than $1,000,000 is still be needed for further repairs.
Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence
194 Livingston Avenue
Albany, New York
Contact: Underground Railroad Project
P.O. Box 10851
Albany, New York 12201
4. The John Coltrane Home in Dix Hills
Saved from demolition in 2004, it was in this home that musical icon John Coltrane isolated himself in the second floor guest room with pen, paper and saxophone and composed “A Love Supreme.” This album is listed as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. As record of its historic significance, the manuscript for the album is one of the National Museum of American History, “Treasures of American History” as part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. His residence in the house represents one of the most important musical periods in the evolution of John Coltrane as a musician, and the house literally is sacred ground to his world wide following. This project will create an inspirational museum, archives, and educational center devoted to celebrating John Coltrane’s music, influence, and the diverse musical legacy. Visitors, researchers, scholars from around the world would be able to come and learn about his music and his life, which was devoted to a reverence for life, appreciation for diversity, and creative interconnectedness between people of all backgrounds and cultures.
The Friends of the Coltrance Home, utilizing a grant from the 1772 Foundation, in 2013, mold remediation, installation of a new roof, soffits, gutters, and making the home water tight was completed. There is still a great deal of work to be done before the home can be opened to the public. At this time, there is still more mold remediation work to be done. The home does not have heat, electricity or functioning plumbing systems. Most of the interior sheetrock has been removed because of the mold situation.
Friends of the Coltrane Home seeks continued public support for this worthy project. Further monetary resources and donations are needed to further stabilize the vacant National Register property for its preservation as a museum and educational center. The John Coltrane Home in Dix Hills will be the living resource where one of the greatest musical artists of all time can make others happy through his music, and the study of his life and legacy.
The John Coltrane Home in Dix Hills
247 Candlewood Path
Dix Hills, New York
Contact: Friends of the Coltrane Home
5. The Cotton Club - Gainesville, Florida
The Cotton Club is a two-story wood frame building located in the Springhill neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida. The building was built as a Post Exchange (PX) during WWII (1941) by soldiers at Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida from lumber the soldiers cut themselves. In 1946, after the war ended, the building was one of 3,000 that was sold at auction. William and Eunice Perryman purchased the building and had it moved, in several pieces, to a lot near the grocery store they owned on East Depot Avenue in Gainesville.
The Perryman Theater became Sarah's Cotton Club in 1949, after it was leased by Black businesswoman Sarah McKnight. Named after the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York, Gainesville’s Cotton Club served as a popular night club and dance hall until the late 1950s. It became a community focal point and showcased entertainment provided by “Negro” performers on the Chitlin’ circuit. James Brown, Brook Benton, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Bo Diddley, all of whom are now famous artists that are hailed nationally and internationally for their musical contributions to the world, performed in Gainesville’s Cotton Club. The booking of popular artists would draw crowds from Jacksonville, Ocala and Palatka. The Cotton Club also attracted large numbers of white students from the University of Florida who came to listen to the music and dance. It is rumored that the City of Gainesville heard about the “racial mixing” during those times of Jim Crow and refused to renew Mrs. McKnight’s license. As a result, the Cotton Club closed in the late 1950s.
The Cotton was reopened as The Blue Note juke joint, but closed in 1959. Afterward, the building served as a warehouse, and sat stagnant. Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church purcased the building in the 1990s.
The current effort by the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, Inc. (CCMCC) is the first effort to save the Cotton Club building. The building has been leased to the CCMCC, Inc., a non-profit corporation, by Mt. Olive AME Church, the owner. Under the direction of the CCMCC’s Board of Directors, the restoration has begun. The building’s foundation, floor and walls have been secured. The building has a new roof, siding, windows and doors. A new building has been constructed to house the bathroom facilities for the project. The goal of the CCMCC is to establish a museum and cultural center on the site where the Cotton Club is located.
The CCMCC is seeking assistance in locating and applying for grant and other funding to complete the restoration of the Cotton Club building and other buildings on the site.
The Cotton Club
837 SE 7th Avenue
Contact: Cotton Club Museum/Cultural Center
P.O. Box 5534
Gainesville, Florida 32627
Mrs. Vivian Filer, Chair
6. Kershaw-Nims House
The Kershaw-Nims House is a historic structure in Tallahassee, Florida, which dates to 1890. It was constructed by the Rev. A.J. Kershaw of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Kershaw was a part of the first class of 15 students to attend the State Normal College for Colored Students in 1887 (now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University). His son, Dr. A.J. Kershaw, worked as a medical physician in Miami, once serving as Secretary of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and as President of the FAMU National Alumni Association. Dr. Kershaw's son, Joe Lang Kershaw, was also a FAMU Alumnus who would become the first African-American to be elected to the Florida Legislature in the House of Representatives, 1968.
Joe Nims, who purchased the home in the 1940s, operated Nims Grocery and Market at 510 W. Brevard St. in Tallahassee's Frenchtown neighborhood for nearly 100 years. He lived to the age of 107.
The Kershaw-Nims House
826 Central Street
Contact: Zoe Allen Bennett
7. Gibbs Cottage
Gibbs Cottage, the oldest and last remaining wooden structure on the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) campus was built in 1892 by Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs. Gibbs, a reconstruction-era Representative who served in the Florida Legislature from Duval County, Florida, had authored the bill in 1885 which eventually established the institution. Gibbs served as Vice President of what was then the State Normal College for Colored Students from 1887 until his death in 1900. He was the son of Johnathan Clarkson Gibbs (1821-1874), who had served as Florida's first Black Secretary of State (1868-1872), and was the first African-American to serve as the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction. Additionally, Gibbs had served as a member of the Tallahassee City Council.
The cottage was also the home of Everett Booker Jones, a FAMU graduate and Professor of Mathematics for whom Jones Hall is named.
2414 South Adams Street
Contact: Florida A&M University
Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
1601 South Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Tallahassee, Florida 32307
8. Geddie-Speed Store
Alvin Oliver Geddie took control of the 701 West Brevard Street property in Tallahassee on August 9, 1924. Geddie built several homes in the historic African-American community of Frenchtown, and sold them to local families.
Leaving the hands of Alvin Geddie’s children (Thomas ‘TJ’ Geddie and Henry Geddie), 701 West Brevard Street became the property of Reverend Daniel B. Speed in 1946. Floor plans for a new store show the first referring to the property as 701. Before now, the property is identifiable only by its plat name, block number, and lot numbers. In addition, the building permits show that the new store is taking the place of address numbers 703, 705, and 707. It is unclear how early owners may have used the wooden building (yet standing and now marked 709) that also occupies the 701 property.
Not only was Reverend Speed a respected storeowner and businessman, but he was very active in the struggle for equal treatment of African-Americans. As a clergyman, he served as assistant pastor to civil rights leader C. K. Steele for three years in the early fifties. While serving as pastor in various other churches, Speed continued to be very involved in the civil rights movement as the NAACP President and founding member of the Inter-Civic Council (ICC). During the bus boycotts in Tallahassee, Reverend Speed was in charge of organizing car pools for boycott participants who needed transportation. The city accused Speed and others of operating vehicles for hire without following regulations. Speed received threatening phone calls at home and at his store. His place of business was often the target of threats and vandalism. During that time, Daniel Speed operated a Real Estate business and rented out houses. One such property he owned was 701 West Brevard Street.
The Geddie-Speed Store is currently owned by Watson Temple Institutional Church of God In Christ, which seeks $60,000 in order to complete the building's restoration efforts. The building has been placed on the Tallahassee-Leon County Register of Historic Places.
701 West Brevard Street
Contact: Watson Temple COGIC
Donald Sheppard, Ph.D., Pastor
665 West Brevard Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32304