THA to restore historical ‘Scrub’ houses

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TAMPA, Fla. — A lingering look into the past is now the doorway to a restored future.

“Let’s do it again, but this time we’re going to do it the right way,” Tampa Housing Authority’s (THA) Lillian Stringer said.

Two dilapidated homes fenced in at the corner of Nebraska Avenue and Scott Street are the lasting image of a bygone era established by black Tampa families after the Civil War.

“‘The Scrub’ neighborhood goes back a couple hundred years at least,” Tampa Bay History Center Black history curator Fred Hearns said.

Hearns has studied the ‘The Scrub’ and remembers certain parts of the neighborhood.

“This area took on the name the scrub primarily because of the small scrub-like plants that grew here,” he said. “Almost half of the black people in Tampa lived in The Scrub.”

Now, the history of The Scrub is just that.

“What we have now are basically memories of what The Scrub was,” Hearns said.

Urban renewal moved into the neighborhood in the 1950s once most ‘Scrub’ homes became unoccupied and the city declared it a slum. From then on, the newly-formed Central Park Village housed many black families until the turn of the century when the Encore housing development was built in 2007.

But just across the street, 1248 E Scott St. and 1250 E Scott St. remained untouched.

“These were occupied by the Johnson Brothers from that time, they lived with their parents here,” Stringer said from outside the two homes.

Paul Johnson held on to the family homes for years, but just recently Tampa Housing Authority finally convinced Johnson to sell the houses for more than $300,000 total.

“Conversations have been about restoring the building to its original form and making all the other homes that we plan to build like that too, but with all new upgraded appliances and i think it absolutely could be beautiful,” Stringer said.

The inside of the homes are decades out of date, but the walls are etched with everlasting messages from the Johnsons. A painting of black music heroes hangs inside an empty room.

“This is James Brown,” Stringer said pointing at a caped singer in the picture.

A throwback to the historic Central Avenue entertainment hub right in the heart of The Scrub. It is a heart that will keep on beating as long as Stringer and THA have their way.

“Originally it was a black community and so why not restore that?” Stringer said.

THA plans to revive the two homes and resurrect a dozen more affordable houses around them to return The Scrub to its proper place in Tampa.

“People will be glad to say and proud to say, ‘This is my home now.’” Stringer said.

“They [THA] value these stories,” Hearns said. “They like to tell this history and keep this history alive.”

THA says it already has investors interested in The Scrub rehab project but is actively looking for more funding. No start date has been set.





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