By: Mariel Carbone
April 13, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)-- Nearly a dozen residents met Thursday to discuss plans to help preserve a local piece of Leon County history.
The Tallahassee Leon County Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to sell two properties of land which house the now vacant Bloxham Building and Firestone Building on Gaines Street. North American Properties, the purchasing company, plans to develop the sites with a residential complex, hotel, retail space and more.
However some residents fear losing the rich history of the Firestone Building.
The Firestone Building was formerly the Leon County Jail, and the site of the first jail-in during the Civil Rights Movement. After several African-American FAMU students were ordered to leave the counter at Woolworth's on Monroe Street- which they refused to do-they were sent to the jail. They chose to sit in jail for weeks rather than pay fines and be released.
Prior to that, two African-American inmates were kidnapped, shot and lynched. They were the last lynchings to happen in Leon County.
It's a pressing time in history Delaitre Hollinger, Executive Director of the National Association for the Preservation of African-American History and Culture, believes should not be lost.
"I think that it's so important that we know the history of not only this building, but other buildings that we still have left in this community that can tell that story of the not so pleasant past," said Hollinger. "So that we can move into the future and understand what's going on now.”
Others believe it's not just the history of what happened on the inside that needs to be preserved, but the art of the building itself.
"When something is lost it seems to be gone forever," said Ron Yrabedra, a retired FAMU professor. "I pass this building almost every day and I always take a look at it. It has the sleek, modern lines of art-deco and I've been to Miami and I saw what happened down there. Orlando has preserved some of its art-deco buildings. (The Firestone Building) really is an architectural gem."
Suggested ways the group would like to see the site honored include a memorial wall for those killed, murals, maintaining the art-deco style, a historical marker, and playing off the history to make it a tourist attraction. They hope to offer these ideas up to the CRA and the developer.
The developer does plan to honor the history of the building in some form.
Shawn McIntyre with NAP released this statement to Eyewitness News:
"We have done extensive research and understand the history behind all three of the historic structures on this site, and we are in the process of forming a historical user group to help determine the best way to honor it- regardless of what we're able to preserve structurally. Right now, we are continuing to work to understand the economic and logistical considerations that’ll determine the feasibility of preserving these structures."
The company is also looking to hold public information sessions in the coming months. However, at this point the company is still in the "due diligence" period of the sale.
Residents looking to "Save the Firestone" are planning to hold another meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Jake Gaither Community Center.
More information on the project can be found online at CascadesProject.com