On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay, 22, defeated Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center to become the boxing heavyweight champion. After the battle in racially segregated South Florida, Clay went to his hotel, the Hampton House, where he partied with activist Malcolm X, soccer star Jim Brown and singer Sam Cooke. In the days that followed, the fighter announced that he would change his name to Cassius X and then to Muhammad Ali.
Decades later, writer Kemp Powers envisioned what the four stars were talking about at their hotel and developed a piece, One Night In Miami in 2013, which was turned into a movie that is now streaming on Amazon Prime and is generating Oscar craze as he shines the spotlight on the Hampton House and the mostly black working-class neighborhood of Brownsville, Miami-Dade County, with no legal personality.
Malcolm X photographs Cassius Clay, soon to be Muhammad Ali, at Miami’s Hampton House Hotel in February 1964 after Ali defeated Sonny Liston.
Segregation kept blacks from staying in Miami Beach, but travelers found the Hampton House largely from the Green Book, a guide to black-friendly establishments across the country. The Hampton House was developed in 1961 by a Jewish couple, Harry and Florence Markowitz, with 50 rooms. It was 8 miles from Miami Beach but had a pool, air conditioning, and a jazz club.
Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King Jr., Althea Gibson, and Sammy Davis Jr. were some of the hotel’s famous visitors.
“I snuck in to see Jackie Wilson when I was 14,” said Jacqui Colyer, chairman of the board of trustees of the Historic Hampton House Community Trust, a nonprofit group that now operates the property. “He sang ‘Lonely Teardrops’ just for me.”
She remembered friends taking swimming lessons there at a time when blacks weren’t allowed in other local swimming pools.
Over the years, highways brought Miami neighborhoods to a standstill, and integration gave black customers more options to stay overnight. In the 1970s, the Hampton House was closed. It was briefly converted into a church. By 2000, Colyer said, “It was literally in disrepair. They wanted to demolish the building. “
Those responsible in the neighborhood fought to save the property. After a 15-year fundraiser worth $ 6 million, it was converted into a museum and cultural center in 2015. Many of the hotel rooms have been converted into raw, open spaces, but visitors can still tour the rooms King and Ali stayed in. The nonprofit developed a business plan to support itself, mostly through events, and planned to add recording and dance studios.
The county still owns the $ 2.8 million building. The nonprofit has a 99-year lease for $ 1 a year, Colyer said. Tax returns for the last available year 2017 show the income was from rentals of $ 62,000, donations of $ 147,000, and government grants of $ 1 million. As of 2019, the Hampton House had sales of $ 480,000, Colyer said. But hard times had come last year.
“The pandemic has taken everything from us,” she said. “We had deposits for events. We had to return $ 70,000. “
The venue has reopened, but only with partial capacity. The room was the site of a premiere of One Night In Miami, but it could only hold 60 people, which would normally have seated 210 people.
The Hampton House will be renovated in 2014.
Plans to open a dance studio are on hold indefinitely, Colyer said, but the nonprofit is advancing designs for a high-end recording studio that could attract modern artists. Her team reached out to the likes of poet Amanda Gorman and Atlanta musicians to explore partnerships and generate excitement. She said she hoped a studio could be built by 2023.
One Night in Miami was shot largely on a replica in Louisiana, but Colyer hopes it will inspire more visitors to the real historic hotel and more politicians to raise funds to keep the dance studio running and running.
As the Hampton House was revitalized, the area around it has become more attractive. In 2003, a master plan for Brownsville, the 2.5 square mile area around Hampton House with more than 17,000 residents, provided for a transit-oriented development and an entertainment and business district. In 2012, an affordable residential complex with five buildings and 490 residential units called Brownsville Transit Village opened next to the Brownsville Metrorail station.
In 2017, Brownsville was designated an opportunity zone. An 84-unit apartment complex that traded for $ 2.9 million in 2012 was sold for $ 7.56 million, or $ 90,000 per unit, in 2019.
Jenny May, Senior Vice President at Melnick Real Estate Advisors, cited the 221-unit Lincoln Gardens affordable residential property project under development by Related Urban Development Group in Brownsville and another project proposed by Atlantic Pacific Communities as highlights of a push by the District for affordable products, particularly around transit corridors. She cited CoStar data, which shows that a warehouse sold for $ 102 per SF and a pre-school for multi-family home renovation for $ 412 per SF last year.
“With all of that growth, there should be an opportunity to open up opportunities for more trading and charter schools,” May said.
Gentrification in Brownsville is different from other predominantly black neighborhoods like Overtown, Wynwood and Liberty City, Colyer said.
“The neighborhood association used to be very, very strong and committed, and as a result, they’ve been able to keep the developers in check,” she said. “The encroachment on gentrification is now coming from Hialeah. The residents are moving east because the houses in Brownsville are absolutely beautiful. It’s one of the few remaining enclaves with nice little bourgeois houses … It’s like that perfect little place. “
Kenneth M. Kilpatrick, president of Brownsville Civic Neighborhood Association Inc., told Bisnow that while the community wants to leave its single-family areas undisturbed and contribute to the planning, an entertainment district around the Hampton House, as envisioned in 2003 by Design-Charettes , would be welcome.
“We would like to see more economic development and commercial retail development along our corridor,” he said. “… restaurants, shops, grocery stores, things like that.”
He pointed out that the neighborhood is on a hill and near Wynwood. It is adjacent to a freeway that easily connects commuters to the airport and beaches.
Kilpatrick was also in talks with the National Park Service to investigate the feasibility of a historic racetrack around the famous Brownsville hotel and other attractions, such as the 1940s black meeting house Georgette’s Tea Room, a cemetery where black pioneers are buried , and a home where Ali once lived.
“It’s a really rich history that the neighborhood has,” he said.