One of Harrisburg’s most endangered historic properties has renewed hope today, as a local contractor has agreed to buy the building and take on the ambitious restoration.
Developer Matt Long said that he expects to close next week on the purchase of the former Jackson Hotel on the 1000-block of N. 6th Street. He then plans to empty out the large quantity of rubble inside the building and stabilize it for winter.
“It probably will take us a month to pull everything out of it,” Long said. “Then we need to stabilize the foundation.”
Earlier this year, the city condemned the circa-1884, Second Empire mansion, which served for decades as the Jackson Hotel, run by hotelier German Jackson. Starting in the 1920s, Jackson ran the hotel and rooming house to serve a primarily African-American clientele, including many black celebrities, who were denied service in Harrisburg’s whites-only establishments.
Jackson, who died in 1993, willed the building to his friend Dave Kegris, owner of the Jackson House restaurant next door. But the building became caught up in a prolonged legal battle over Jackson’s estate and sat empty for years.
Recently, several Harrisburg residents have bought the building to try to save it, but the restoration has proven to be too extensive and expensive. A few years ago, much of the roof caved in, the interior staircase collapsed and the floors pancaked, leaving a large pile of debris inside.
The current owner, Jeremiah Chamberlin, said that he met Long recently while Long’s company, Harrisburg Commercial Interiors, was working on another challenging restoration—the dilapidated commercial buildings at the corner of North and Susquehanna streets in Harrisburg.
“I saw the work he was doing, and it’s quality work,” Chamberlin said, who described their meeting as “kismet.” “So, I decided to pass it on to someone else who is capable and can do a good job.”
Long said that his team will begin clearing out the Jackson Hotel soon after the sale, which is expected to close on Nov. 2.
After the building is emptied out and stabilized, Long’s company will construct a completely new interior and roof, he said. He said that he plans to build an open floor plan that can accommodate a variety of uses.
He hopes to save as much of the facade as possible, he said, including the large brick exterior wall that features a mural of prominent African Americans who once stayed at the hotel or who are locally famous.
For the project, Long has engaged structural engineer Ed Davis of Schuylkill Haven-based Miller Brothers Construction. They also worked together on the North Street project.
“We applaud this very encouraging step,” said David Morrison, executive director of Historic Harrisburg Association. “The Jackson House has been on our ‘Preservation Priorities’ list since 2000.”